Thursday, 11 August 2016

Comfort Weaving

After completing a major project, like my jacket for Bendigo, I often feel that it’s time for a little comfort weaving.

What's comfort weaving?  I think it's a bit like comfort food - the familiar foods of childhood, craved and/or eaten when life isn't going smoothly - only in weaving it's the simple plain weaves and straight twills from Weaving 101, often done when while watching TV, and when you want a break from more complex weaving

Over the past 3 weeks I’ve managed to make 4 plain weave scarves, 12 herringbone tea towels and a bread cloth
while binge watching Kitchen Cabinet. It's a local TV programme where Annabel Crabb, a political journalist and keen cook goes into politicians' homes, cake or dessert in hand.  The deal is that she brings the second course and the host cooks the main course.  She hopes that in a familiar environment, distracted by cooking - the politicians who are keen foodies like to show off their skills, those who are not,  just pray that no disasters happen - they will open up in ways not seen in formal interviews.  It works, they do open up and seem much more human, even ones who would not normally get my vote.  It all makes good TV for weaving.

The scarves were just simple plain weave using an alpaca weft for 2 and a boucle loopy mohair for the other 2.  I thought the mohair was the sort of yarn that should be brushed, remembered that I had a little brush just right for the job, and even managed to find it. 

A quick brush raised the pile to give a soft and fluffy surface, just the thing for the cold weather we’re having at the moment

The tea towels are from the warp of leftover yarn I wrote about here.  While width of the coloured stripes was dictated by the amount of yarn available, the grey and black stripes helped to bring it all together.  I used a herringbone draft and wefts in the same grey as in the warp,
and a greyish blue, hard to say which worked best, maybe depends on the kitchen colour scheme. It's always good to get to the end and see all the towels on the cloth beam.

I was reading something about kitchen design recently where the author suggested that tea towels are the ‘cushions of the kitchen’ – an inexpensive accent of colour to make the space look more interesting.  I guess there might be something in it

I went to the Hawthorn Craft Market on Sunday and some additions to the stock were needed. 
I managed to make a couple of sales and learned quite a lot about the new credit card reader in the process.  I thought my limited technical skills were the reason it wouldn’t work but found out later that while there was an updated version of Android on the phone it wasn’t compatible with the card reader as its app had not been updated.  It’s all a learning experience but I’m still trying to work out why I didn’t just enter the card details on to the screen as I do at work regularly when someone has a card which can’t be read


Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Sheep Show 2016

Here I am, back after a lengthy break, no dramas, it's just that time of the year when everything has to be kept under wraps

I sent 4 scarves to the Geelong scarf festival, but won't know what is happening with them until later in the year unless I make a trip there.  I was very happy with these waves in a hand spun wool variegated yarn and fine wool weft in advancing twill.

and the third version of the snakeskin, this time in coral

No sooner were the scarves on their way to Geelong than it was time to start working on something for the Sheep Show in Bendigo.

I'd seen a Burda jacket with a simple shape so good potential for handwoven fabric, and decided that I wanted to make it in something bold - diversified plain weave seemed to be the best option and I really liked the circles which Iowaweaver wrote about here and in Handwoven.

I started with this wool in two colours and two thicknesses, although not the blue, it just jumped into the bag while I was thinking about other things

and later had to buy 4 more balls of the pink.

Then I warped

And wove - out in the garage where it only gets to about 16ºC, about 60ºF
And wove even though the fine pink was just a little soft for warp and kept breaking

For about 5 metres which was only just enough
And finished up with this 

and this

and this - the fabric at the bottom of the fabric was all that was left over

As usual I also started a second entry and as usual, life intervened and I decided to finish one properly

The sheep show was last weekend, I caught up with friends and looked at all the wonderful Woolcraft entries.  Here are a few which were paraded - sorry I can't identify the makers, but they all looked fantastic

And here's mine on a model, who is just a little taller than I am.  My jacket was awarded second place in the handwoven garment section even though there was a problem with some uneven threads on the collar.  It was a good lesson to start earlier and check both sides of the fabric as the problem was almost invisible on the side with grey spots but quite obvious on the side with pink spots.  I cut off just enough for the large collar pieces before I saw the problem and when I came to cut out the collars there wasn't enough fabric to avoid the problem.  I think it will be fixable once I work out exactly what the problem is, and is only really visible from within an arm's length.

I checked out the traders and managed to come home with just a small addition to the stash and also a new tape measure as mine all have nicks in them from overuse.

I've now retreated back into the warmth of the house and put a simple plain weave project on the 4 shaft loom, a few bright scarves for the next market, and told the loom in the garage that I'll be back in 6 weeks when the weather is warmer


Saturday, 14 May 2016

New toy

No, unfortunately not a new loom, but a new phone. A while ago my phone company announced that they were closing down their oldest network.  I wondered who had a phone that old and then I received a letter from them telling me my phone was that old. So now I have a shiny new phone and thought I would try doing a blog post with it.

I finished the scarves for the Geelong Scarf Festival and sent them off in good time, but they are still under wraps for a while. 

I have a very fine - think almost frog hair - warp on the 4 shaft loom. Because it's so slow, it's very easy to find excuses to do anything but work on it, such as playing with the new phone. 

Last weekend I wound a new tea towel warp, thinking it might inspire me to finish the fine warp, progress has not been much faster this week but then I wasn't home much. The warp was mostly left overs. As most cotton weaving yarns are imported, they are expensive here and not to be wasted. In the stash there are the yarns with enough for a serious project, yarns with enough for one or two tea towel wefts and yarns where there is only enough for a random striped warp like this one.

And here is what was left after I wound the warp. There's enough to mend a few mistakes but not much more than that.

One of the outings this week was to the opening of Creation to Collection 2016, an exhibition of handwoven wraps, scarves, bags and garments by Christina Turner, Virginia Harrison and Pat Jones. They are a very talented group and their latest work is inspirational.  If you're in Melbourne, the exhibition is at Steps Gallery, 62 Lygon St Carlton until May 22. Just to prove I was there, here is a picture of my back view,

wearing my jacket from the 2015 Bendigo Sheep Show.  I'm happy with the jacket but think the strap on the bag is far too long

I have of course been playing with the camera on the new phone and thought it did a pretty fair job on tonight's sunset - point and press, with no editing 

I do have a long way to go yet as I gave up with the phone about halfway through this post as I'm much faster typing on the laptop and I still haven't found how to transfer pictures from the phone to the draft blog post.  I'm not sure that emailing them to the laptop is the simplest method but it seems to be working 

Friday, 15 April 2016

Weavers’ Dilemma

Someone came to see me this week wearing a most interesting top – looked almost as though it had been made from an antique coverlet except that it was in black and white. Isn’t that the dilemma, whether to comment or just try to examine it from afar without touching?  Here's a genuine snowball and pinetree coverlet courtesy of US Archives

I couldn’t stop myself from commenting (and feeling it) and explaining where the design originated.  She was a knitter so understood my textile addiction.  It turned out that it was from a US based company and the fabric had been woven in India in a classic pine tree and snowball design.  The fabric was probably all cotton, and was a double weave, completely reversible, and used with the light side for some parts of the tunic and the darker side for the rest.  Great use of a very traditional design, but despite searching on the internet, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find anything remotely like it. 

I’ve been busy working on some scarves for the Geelong Scarf Festival, completed entries have to be there by May 6, so there’s still 3 weeks to go.  My entries will have to stay under wraps for a bit longer however, not everything coming off the loom is for Geelong.  I wanted to try one of the drafts which give a fake snakeskin effect.  There are 2 drafts on, 45548 and 45548 Corrected where someone has decided that there are errors in the first draft.  I just thought the first one was meant to look a bit organic and decided to use it. 

It’s a great draft to weave because the small irregularities in the threading and treadling completely disguise any mistakes.  I know there are no major mistakes and while there may be a few minor skips, it would be almost impossible to find them.
I had a painted tencel warp, mostly dark gray with white bands that I’d dyed it a few years ago but my record keeping left a bit to be desired.  It said quite clearly that there were 240 ends – 10 inches by 24 ends per inch and that it was 6 metres long.  When I started to put it on the loom it fitted very nicely in the small raddle, the one with 10 nails and 9 spaces,

I wound it on and started to thread without thinking too much about it.  About two thirds of the way across I realised that I seemed to be short of ends, sure enough there were not 240 but only 216.  Having been taught to ‘weave in the centre of the loom’ I knew that I needed to re-thread or it would annoy me for the whole length of the warp.  Not only was the width out but after I had woven 3 scarves, each 2 meters long, there was still about a meter of warp left, enough for panels for a couple of bags or something else if inspiration strikes. Maybe the warp stretched but I don’t think so, just more bad record keeping.

I’m very happy with the results, they do look like snake skin and feel right too, not that I know what a snake feels like or have any intention of finding out.  They have been washed, pressed, rolled on the stone bench top and tumbled in the dryer without any heat.

The theme for the Geelong Scarf Festival this year is ‘Myths and Legends” and I felt sure that I could find a connection to a snake goddess somewhere – surely any self respecting culture would have a deity for a creature with a poisonous bite.  As I wove and the fabric started to look very snake like, all I could think of were Jeremy Lloyd’s poems for children from the 1980s and the villain ‘Hissing Sid’.  If you missed these at the time here’s the late Keith Michell with something to brighten your day 

and the reason why these scarves are now called ‘Hissing Sid 1 and 2’.  


Monday, 14 March 2016

A Day at the Market

Last Sunday was the first market for the year for the Hawthorn Craft Market.  I was better organised than usual – the tea towels were all labelled and dry rather than finished so late they were still slightly damp as things are sometimes when I run out of time.

They looked pretty good piled up

I made them using draft from Handwoven, September/October 2014, on an olive drab 8/2 warp. The colour was a bit out of my blue green comfort zone but I was pleased with the results.  I used linen in the warp for 2 of them and despite hearing horror stories about linen, kept the bobbins slightly damp and had no dramas.

I even ‘cold mangled’ them between the stone bench top and the rolling pin.  It certainly made a difference to the ones with linen or cotton-linen blend wefts as this picture shows where the line about a quarter of the way along on the left hand side, is the boundary between the right hand corner which has already been rolled and the unrolled part.  This yarn was a slubby cotton/linen blend.

A customer came past and asked where they were made, clearly thought they were from a sweat shop in a distant land.  ‘Glen iris’, I said naming the adjacent suburb where I live, and occasionally think I have my own personal sweat shop.  I was discussing this exchange with my neighbour on the next stall who was new to the market, it turned out I had been at university with her sister.  Sometimes I think Melbourne is a very small town.

I usually take some hand work for the quiet times, fringing, knitting, whatever needs to be done and is portable.  The only thing I had to take this time was my drop spindle and some very colourful roving.  I thought it would add a bit of colour and movement to the stall but the funny thing was that very few people commented on it at all, to the point where I began to feel it was a bit like an affliction that would be impolite to mention.  As we were packing up, the friends who sell hand spun yarn and knitted articles made from hand spun at the market remarked that I’d got quite a lot done.  I said how strange it was that very few people had mentioned it.  That’s when they said that a lot of people had gone to them to tell them that I was spinning.  Who knows what the passers-by thought but if they thought I was setting up in competition, they obviously hadn’t seen how slowly I spindle spin.  Any yarn made on the spindle will be precious indeed and certainly not for sale.

The unmentionable spindle and roving

It’s been a long weekend and while I had many plans on Friday, not much seems to have been done. I did find time to tidy the studio, remove all the mess from the tea towels and get the yarns back into the boxes where they belong, all ready to start a new warp, I feel something snake skin like happening.

I have finished spinning some yarn from 200 gm of First Editions merino and silk roving I won at the Geelong Show last year.   I thought it would be good if the 2 small bobbins

could be plied on to one of the large bobbins and while it did just fit,

it reminded me of one of those very woolly sheep who emerge from the bush from time to time having escaped from their flock and missed several visits from the shearer.


Saturday, 6 February 2016

Don't try this at home

I’ve realised that I tend to write when something is finished and there hasn’t been a lot of finishing happening around here recently.  I was busy at work during January, working an extra half day with a staff member on holidays.  It doesn’t seem much but sure eats into the weaving time, especially when there are long, and not very exciting warps on both looms.

Fortunately we had a holiday for Australia Day on the 26th and I was able to make an extra long weekend of it.  I wanted to do some dyeing and with four days, knew I would have enough time to wind warps, set up, do the dyeing and put it all away again.  I wound some warps for dyeing and painting, got some wool top ready to dye and knitted a blank from some 3 ply I’d found in a bargain bag from Bendigo Woollen Mills.  I’d planned to dye on Monday but all the prep took longer than expected.  It made good sense to get the newspaper and plastic wrap all in place on Monday night and, after attending an Australia Day breakfast, come home and do the dyeing. 

There I was setting up, I had the newspaper down and was getting the dyes out.  I wrote here about finding very good new jars to store my dye solutions to replace the ones with the poorly fitting lids.  You may have guessed by now where this is going.  I picked up one jar by the lid – Rubinole – if you’re interested, and the jar fell from the lid, bounced on the stone bench and dye went everywhere including all over me.  It didn’t taste good but does not seem to have had any serious after effects and believe me, it won’t happen again.  First thing was to put my head under the tap and rinse off as much as I could.  The tee shirt, an old dyeing one, went straight in the bin and then I started the clean up.  Although the dye was a darker red, it looked a bit as though there had been a murder in my kitchen however the clean up went surprisingly well.  The newspapers absorbed a lot, there was probably only about half a cup spilt altogether but it went a long way and it came off the hard surfaces, including the white cupboards easily.  The only real casualties were one of the blinds

and a part of the wooden floor which is due to be refinished.  The blind needs to be taken down, dismantled and soaked and if that doesn’t work, I think there is enough fabric in the cupboard to make another.  If that fails I may have to add a few carefully arranged artificial flowers to cover the stains.   
When you think about it, it’s probably not surprising that it cleaned up so well since soaking in soda ash and heating are what sets the dyes on cellulose fibres and none of those conditions was operating when the dye hit. By the time I cleaned up it was quite late but I had a shower to get rid of any remaining dye as I wanted to be sure it had all gone, and my hair wasn’t pink before I went out next morning.  As I stood under the shower, late at night, little pink trickles kept running down my skin.  

I was much more careful doing the dyeing after that and I won’t forget this lesson.

Here’s the finished result

I liked the blue and green wool top so much I started spinning it before I took any photos.  It’s already been spun and plied with a very fine thread best described as ‘bling’ in a co-ordinating colourway

During January I did manage to knit some socks.  I have knitted them in the past but was not that excited with the result and decided to try again.  I had bought some Tofutsies yarn with the idea of weaving with it but I realised that the very short colour repeats would not work for weaving.  I could hear a little voice saying ‘knit me, knit me’ and of course the obvious thing was to knit some socks.  It was a good blend – 50% wool, 22.5% cotton, 25% soysilk and 2.5% chitin(from shrimp and crab shells) – to knit during the hot weather.  One pair finished and another sock almost finished. 

I even realised that there wasn’t a rule to say that it was compulsory to knit the yarn as it came off the ball if cutting and re-joining would make the stripe pattern work better.  I’m happy with the first one of this pair and there’s been no sign of the yarn or sock police so far.  I just have to make sure the stripes match on the second one of this pair and then it’s on to the dyed blank where everything should match perfectly. 

Think they will be toe up with yellow toes.

I’ve also been working on spindle spinning, I think I’ve got the hang of it and I like the portability but I don’t think I’ll be getting rid of any of my wheels for a while yet.

On the weaving front, the tea towels are still in progress but need to be done for a market on the first Sunday in March.  I’ve done one in natural, one in lemon, one in a textured gold yarn, one in a light salmon cottolin and have just started one in natural linen.

It’s the first time I’ve used linen but seems to be behaving well so far.  I think this is probably number 9 of 13 or 14, I seem to be losing count.