Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Unmatched socks

Ordinarily, I try to knit matching socks. This wasn't always so, but now I pride myself in making them look alike. So I was a bit discombobulated over this pair. I was well away before I realized they did not match. Then they sat in limbo while I debated over whether to reknit them. In the end, I decided it wasn't worth it.

Pattern: Gusset Heel Basic Sock by Wendy D. Johnson
Yarn: ONline Supersocke 6-ply, colorway 1551 (I think)
Needles: US2
Modifications: None that I can remember

In another inconsistent knitterly move, I neglected to make note of the toe construction (Turkish cast-on maybe) or record the stitch count or the start date. I *do* know that I previously used US3 needles to knit this yarn but thought they were too loose. The US2 needles, however, created socks that were too small for the intended recipient. Fortunately, these fit my daughter, and she never says no to handknit socks.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A trick I learned at PlyAway

Last spring I attended PlyAway. I learned a lot but wasn't sure much of it stuck in this sieve-like brain of mine. One idea I did retain was plying with silk to create a stronger yarn for weaving. I finally actually tried this out - well, the plying part, not the weaving part, yet.

This is a 3-ply yarn. Two plies I spun from some unknown roving, the third is commercial silk. I'm pleased with the results. (For the record, I spun this on my Ashford Joy 2 wheel, one notch down, then plied it on the same wheel but an additional notch down.) The silk adds a bit of sheen to the yarn, which I hope you can see in the photo below. If I were spinning a thicker yarn, the silk would probably disappear into the wool.

The logistics of adding the silk ply were surprisingly difficult because the silk was on a cone. I tried to simply put the cone on my 3-bobbin lazy kate, but the brake wouldn't keep the silk from spooling off too fast. I eventually unspooled some silk onto a swift but I had to put a rubber band around the shaft to keep it from spooling off too fast. If I decided to do more of this, I will just put the silk onto a bobbin of its own so I can put it on the lazy kate with the others.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Another plying experiment

A while back, I blogged about plying commercial yarn to create a bulkier end product. While my efforts worked, I wasn't that thrilled with the outcome. Recently it occurred to me that maybe I would like the results better if I first un-plied the commercial yarn, then plied more of it together. It couldn't hurt to try.

What I did was take samples of worsted weight yarn - Patons 100% wool, which is a 3-ply - and unplied each sample onto a separate bobbin. In other words, each bobbin contained all three plies but untwisted. Initially, I plied the yarn from two bobbins, creating a 6-ply yarn. Then I tested plying three samples together, from three bobbins, for a 9-ply. For each result, I set the twist using my usual method: soak yarn in warm water for 20 minutes, press out the moisture, then swing the skein around and around, finishing with a few snaps before hanging it in the shower to dry.

From left, 3-ply, 6-ply, 9-ply

I like the resulting yarn better than plying together plied yarn. The wraps-per-inch (wpi) were not as differentiated as I thought they would be, but do indicate I now have fatter yarn. The 9-ply would be good for weaving tapestries.




For comparison purposes, here is a pic of commercial 3-ply rug yarn. If I wanted to create a yarn fat enough for rugs, I would have to start with fatter yarn, maybe bulky or even super bulky. Perhaps I will try that next.

3-ply rug yarn

Do you know of anyone else experimenting with yarn like this? I'd like to compare notes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tightly plied

The frustrations I outlined in my previous posts got the better of me and I took a holiday from fiber for a while. That means a holiday from blogging as well. But recently I have at least picked up the baby cable socks - and am finally past the toes! - and am spinning again.

Much as I enjoy spinning, I hate, hate, hate plying. That is because I find it awkward, plus I am never very satisfied with the result. In October, I went to a spin-in at my enabler's shop and brought along some yarn I had spun from BFL top to be critiqued. Betty confirmed that the ply could be tighter, but otherwise thought it was a fine skein of yarn.

At this same spin-in, I was spinning a fine thread of some unknown roving. Another spinner commented on the fineness and suggested I move the drive belt on my wheel a notch, to achieve a tighter twist. This made a big difference! About a week later (I'm a little slow), it occurred to me that I could do the same when plying - move the belt a notch to put more twist into the yarn when plying without having to change my already awkward technique.

Since I had more BFL singles, I tested this idea. And it worked! Previously, I was getting 3.5 to 4 twists per inch, now it is more like 5 to 6. That doesn't sound like a big difference, but I could see right away that the yarn looked "smarter" (if that makes any sense).

I still have a ways to go before I achieve better consistency in both spinning and plying, but I feel like I am finally making some progress.

Saturday, October 27, 2018


No pictures to show you, just a laundry list of complaints, about me mostly. I have several projects in the works, but can't seem to make any progress on them. Or when I do manage one step forward, I end up two steps back.

First complaint goes to the pair of baby cable socks I am trying to knit for my SO, but I can't seem to get past the toe. I like to knit both socks at the same time, trading off between them, to avoid the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome. Since these are in a solid color, I am working from both ends of the skein. This has bitten me in the butt, as I found an error in sock #2, but later when I tried to fix it, the error was gone... because I was looking at sock #1. I only discovered this problem because I had been working the cable stitch all the way around the TOE UP sock, which meant there were cables on the sole of the sock. Ripping back is what revealed the sock #1 and sock #2 confusion. Now I feel like starting over from scratch, just for the psychological relief of feeling like it's a new project, not a bunged up old one.

Second complaint is for the windowpane dishtowels I decided to weave on my 24" rigid heddle. Half the warp is not tight enough, for one thing. For another, I can't seem to beat the cotton/linen blend yarn hard enough to get squares instead of rectangles. Fortunately, I stopped after about two inches of weaving, so I can unweave, then retie the warp better. I just don't want to.

Clamped to my diningroom table is my inkle loom. I warped it quite a while ago, to practice some techniques, but can't seem to get going on them. I whipped out several inkle projects when I first started weaving on this loom, but now that I am trying something new, it feels awkward and is not going well. Also, pick up - my eyes may be too old for this skill.

Also squatting on the diningroom table is my SampleIt loom. I have been practicing some tapestry techniques on it, things I need to know before I start the next tapestry weaving project I have halfway designed (mostly in my head). The SampleIt is not the best loom for this task, so I am struggling a bit, especially (AND AGAIN) with the warp tension. More awkwardness.

One big and long overdue knitting project is a poncho I started several years ago. I think my notes are good enough that I can pick up where I left off, but I never do. If I don't get going, poncho season will be over.

At least the spinning is going okay. I took some handspun to a recent spin-in to be evaluated by the woman who serves as my spinning enabler. I feel better about my skill level (good but not perfect). I also received a good tip from another spinner, which immediately improved the yarn I was working on there.

Winter is coming, gardening season is drawing to a close, so I must, must, MUST put aside resistance and fear of failure, and forge ahead with needles and looms. Any advice?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Chocolate and Vanilla sampler

The actual names for the colors in the tapestry sampler are 'Sable' and 'Creme', but they look like chocolate and vanilla to me, albeit fuzzy chocolate and vanilla. Lambs Pride yarn includes mohair, which creates a bit of a halo effect.

Source: Tapestry Weaving: a comprehensive study guide, by Nancy Harvey
Yarn: Lambs Pride Bulky, in 'Sable' and 'Creme'
Loom: a frame loom I purchased on our trip to Nashville, built by Bob Gustin, husband of the Homestead Weaver.
EPI/PPI: 6 EPI and I don't know PPI

I really had no idea of where to begin, so the book I used was instrumental. It included instructions for a variety of looms, including a frame loom. Otherwise, I would not have known to use dowel rods at the bottom to beat against. I was able to do some weaving with shuttles, but most of the time I had to create butterflies of yarn.

The previous tapestry I wove used a cartoon for one section, but this author's instructions included a cartoon for the whole project. I had to use three separate pieces of graph paper, so implemented the patterns a section at a time.

Note the use of Clover Wonder Clips to hold the cartoon to the tapestry. They are like little binder clips for sewers and other crafters. One of the best purchases I ever made.

One disadvantage to using a cartoon is, if it is not exactly the right size, designs that should be symmetrical may not be. I wish I had counted warp threads to make the shapes match better.

Tapestry weaving is weft faced, which means the weaver hides the warp threads by beating the weft. I tried to use a tapestry sword to beat the weft, but that did not work well with this loom because, without heddles, there was no way to prop the shed open. The tapestry beater worked fine, though.

The resulting fabric was rather dense, like a rug. I wonder if I needed to beat quite as hard as I did. One drawback of being basically self-taught is there is no one looking over my shoulder saying, Do this, don't do that.

I sent the following pic to Chris Gustin (the Homestead Weaver), so she could see I was actually using the loom. She posted it on the Homestead Weaver FB page, and it received some nice comments.

To finish the piece, I added wood beads top and bottom. At first, I mixed three shades of beads, which I liked, but not with the two-color tapestry. I replaced them with all dark beads. The supporting stick is from one of my apple trees.

The pics of the finished project make the top and bottom look narrower than the middle, which is not the case. The tapestry lays nicely on the floor, but when hanging, curls a bit at one corner. I may steam it so the yarn will full a bit and I can flatten and shape the fabric. Then the question will be, Where to display it?

Monday, October 01, 2018

Psychedelic tapestry

We are very fortunate to have the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in this town. I am fortunate that my SO purchased a dual membership so we can go whenever and see whatever, then leave the rest for another day. For example, a week or so ago, we stopped by to view a quilt show. There was also a Chuck Sperry show of psychedelic art, but we didn't spend much time with that. However, my SO returned later and discovered that three of the pieces in the show were tapestry weaving! We went back yesterday so I could check those out.


There were three HUGE tapestries, each about 14' x 7', facing a freestanding wall that made it difficult to photograph them; that's why I shot just one. We spent a fair amount of time up close and personal, to the point a guard seemed to be hovering nearby, poised to keep me from getting too close and personal. I'm not a fan of psychedelic art, but the workmanship was just exquisite. Usually, when we visit museums and art shows, my SO is the expert, but with fiber arts, I get to do the explaining.

When we turned around, we discovered that the tapestries had originally been poster-sized silkscreen prints.


Fiber artwork simply MUST be seen in person, especially if the pieces are of any size. This one was woven with something sparkly intermingled with some of the wool. I would love to see these works in progress - did they use metallic thread? was there a cartoon behind the work? how do four people work on a tapestry at one time? - just to get a better idea of the process involved.