Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I sewed something!

I left the dogs at the kennel for a couple of nights, along with their dog beds for comfort. Although they have been there before, Clio must have been bored or antsy or something, as she managed to tear open her bed. I need to board them again this weekend, so I decided to try fixing the damage. I forgot to take pix, but still wanted to document my efforts.

The dog bed has a polysester outer shell that can be removed for washing. It has an inner shell of polyester that can also be removed. Inside is a bunch of woolly looking polyester. Clio damaged the outer shell zipper a bit and ripped it partially off, then tore right through the inner shell. I replaced the inner shell with an old beach towel, sewed into a bag to hold the stuffing (not removable). Then I found the zipper foot for my sewing machine and repaired the zipper in the outer shell. It's not pretty but it should hold unless a certain dog decides to chew through the bed again.

I am the first to admit I am no seamstress. Most of the members of the weaving guild not only create lovely cloth with their harness looms, they transform the cloth into even lovelier items of clothing. No matter how simple one's weaving is, in order to use it for something other than filler for a drawer or closet, sewing is required. While I am not happy about the destruction of the dog bed, I am glad I had something inconsequential to practice my sewing skills on.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Peach? Apricot? Untanned white lady?

Recently, while mowing, the seat of my pants felt wet. When I finally got off the riding mower to check, I discovered some pokeberries had loosened themselves from their stems, rolled down my back, and got squished under my backside. I treated my shorts and rinsed my underwear, but not before noticing what a lovely color the berry juice produces.

Even though pokeberry dye is known to be fugitive (fades fast, washes out), I decided to give it a try anyway. I relied on Harvesting Color, by Rebecca Burgess, which includes instructions for dyeing with pokeberries so that the color lasts. Basically you mordant the fiber in a vinegar bath, but also add vinegar to the dye bath, and hope for the best. The author uses wool, but since I had so few berries, I chose to dye a silk scarf.

The dye bath looked almost black, but the initial dunking of the scarf didn't look too promising. Keeping temps between 160 and 180 degrees, I mordanted the scarf for an hour, cooked the berries for an hour, and simmered the scarf in the dye bath for TWO hours. I then left the scarf in the dye bath overnight AND let the scarf dry for two hours before rinsing, yet the color seems rather pallid.

What would you call this color? Peach? Apricot? Pale white lady? My gardening tan is darker but the scarf just about matches my untanned belly skin. I think I'll wear it around and if someone comments on it and indicates they really like the color, it may become theirs.

I'm not giving up on pokeberries, though. Next time I will use wool for the fiber and gather many, many more berries, to see if that makes a difference. The recommended ratio of berries to fiber is 25:1, and while technically that is what I had, I think one cannot err by increasing the berry amount.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Three bags full

A few posts ago I mentioned volunteer work I did at Salomon Farm. Serendipity struck recently when I ran into the event coordinator, and she mentioned some wool that was just sitting around in an out building. I offered to take it off her hands and now I have three bags of raw fiber.

Two of the bags are labeled as "Butterball" so I know it is Lincoln. The other is from "Lazarus". But to my knowledge, there was no sheep there named Lazarus. It looks similar to Butterball's, though, so I'm hoping for more Lincoln. The only thing better would be to get some of the other colors of sheep.

I haven't pulled the fleeces from the bags yet, to see if they are skirted. I did order some Unicorn Power Scour to clean the wool, although many use Dawn. This will be a new adventure in fiber arts - I'm excited!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dye with tomato vines? Had to try it

One advantage of having several sources of information on fiber arts is exposure to a variety of techniques. I picked up a copy of Vegetable Dyeing, by Alma Lesch (out of print) because it includes a recipe for dyeing with tomato vines. While I didn't follow her methods, preferring the ones described in Wild Color, I had to give tomato vines a try.

With no tomatoes in my garden this year, I obtained some from my neighbor once he was done with catsup-making; we are still waiting on a killing frost, so the vines were still green. All five 1-ounce skeins were treated with alum and cream of tartar as a mordant. Then I tried four different afterbath modifiers, from none to iron. In the photo above, the leftmost skein is Lambs Pride and received no modifier. The other skeins are Cascade 220 and, in order from left to right, received no modifier, vinegar, ammonia, and iron. The differences are modest, to say the least.

The author of Wild Color makes it sound like one needs only a few teaspoons of vinegar or ammonia to create an afterbath, but next time I am going to up that to at least a quarter cup, as recommended elsewhere, as so far they haven't really affected the color. I'm also going to test with litmus strips, to make sure the afterbaths are truly different in pH.

To create my mini skeins, I wind yarn onto a niddy noddy, counting the number of rounds to come up with the yardage. Then I weigh to result. One side of the label contains this information.

The other side of the label holds the dye information. I am getting better at making AND attaching labels to my fiber products. The story behind the yarn used to knit or weave something is as important to me as the end product itself.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Spun out for a while

Salomon Farm is a city park that simulates a working farm from the 1930's. During the summer, they host a variety of farm animals, from chickens to heritage breed hogs. I volunteered there for two years and as a side benefit received some roving from one of the sheep. Poor Butterball was literally on her last legs, requiring medication and special handling to keep her weight up. Finally, they put her down. Happily, I received some of her roving, which I recently spun into yarn.

I am not an expert spinner by any means. If you are a beginning spinner, too, I highly recommend you start with Lincoln roving. It has a long staple, so the "inch worm" technique is very forgiving.

I filled up four bobbins before beginning to ply, and was hoping for the amounts on each bobbin to be rather even. The mini-skein at the top of the photo represents the bit that was left over and was plied from a small center-pull ball.

I ended up with over 400g of two-ply yarn. The twists from the spinning and the plying came out looking balanced, although I think the finished product looks rather loose. I'm anxious to knit up a sample.

One area of spinning where it is easy for me to fall down is labeling the product. Ideally, the above tag should also include wraps-per-inch (wpi) and whether it was processed and spun worsted or woolen. If I dye any of this yarn, the other side of the tag would include dye information.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Another spin-in

Yesterday I attended the Teasel Hill Fifth Saturday Spin-In. This time it sunk in that these events are not so much about spinning but about eating and socializing. I was hell-bent on spinning some cheviot top that I recently purchased, and while I received some good advice on my spinning technique, I ended up wishing I had saved the fiber for a quieter time at home. No one to blame but myself for the uneven singles.

That is not to say I didn't have a good time. The potluck lunch was excellent, I met some new people, got to know some almost new people better, and managed not to spend any money on fiber goods. The "fiber husband" gave a few of us a tour of the farm, which included chickens (we accidentally let some out of the coop - oops!), angora goats (I wondered why Barry kept referring to the sheep as goats when I realized that those sheep were goats - apparently I didn't know what angora goats looked like), maple trees they tap for syrup, a tire swing, the sledding hill, etc. Twenty acres of rural heaven. I learned that cherry tree leaves are poisonous to goats but they love artichoke roots.

I also brought home a plastic bagful of black walnuts - score! These will be used for dyeing fiber. I'm excited!

While we are on the topic of dyeing (smooth segue, huh?), I have been harvesting dahlia flowers when they are a bit past their peak. This is the first time I have grown dahlias. Initially, the four plants were producing a blossom here and there, one at at time, but suddenly they increased production tenfold.

While I don't plan to dye anything with just marigolds, I decided to harvest some of the flowers to add to other dye baths. Similarly, I won't dye again with only onion skins, but they should be a nice addition to other dye baths, so I'm collecting them as I cook winter soups.

The weather is still iffy - autumn-like today, but more too-warm days to come this week - so the urge to knit has not returned yet. Meanwhile, I continue to play with my inkle loom. So many fibers and fiber arts, so little time!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

ArtPrize at the Grand Rapids Art Museum

As I mentioned before, my SO and I took a day trip to Grand Rapids, MI, to partake of ArtPrize. It was unbearably hot, so we limited ourselves to two venues (out of 182!), the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculture Park and the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM). I posted about the former here. In this post, we'll take a look at some of what there was to see at the GRAM.

My first thought upon entering the exhibit was, "Thank God there is some textile art!" The first two below are by Jeana Eve Klein and reflect her obsession with abandoned houses.

The materials are acrylic paint and inkjet printing on recycled fabric. It's easy to stop thinking once one has fabric in hand, but there is so much more one can do to express one's creativity. All it takes is some imagination (and talent and skill).

Letitia Huckaby used flour sacks as the base for her creations. Just one generation removed from the artist, her family grew, raised, and made everything they needed except flour. The flour sacks became dresses for the girls. Here she superimposes images on the fabric to express the creativity and inner strength of those forebears.

Another artist who sparked my imagination is Amy Helminiak. Her "digital landscapes" would make wonderful material for sewing. I'm not a seamstress, but I can imagine imitating her technique to create unique cloth.

Kittens and mittens above, milk bottles and miscellaneous items below. Of course, her titles for these works are more personal and political. These pics are detail views, not the works in their entirety.

I also enjoyed the works of Leroi DeRubertis, maybe because I can visualize imitating them as well, although I'm not sure what form that would take. Again, these pics reflect only a portion of each installation.

The red hands above seemed more two-dimensional, except for the shadows they cast. The faces below felt more three-dimensional, like viewing a crowd. Both reminded me of an exercise in high school Art 101: draw something without lifting the pencil from the page.

I can be quite the homebody; it's easy for me to become glued to the couch. But getting out and about and seeing something new can be quite exciting and stimulating. It was a long day but very worthwhile.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Weaving in the wild

My SO spotted this weaving on the streets of Grand Rapids, MI. We were there to visit ArtPrize, their annual self-directed, multi-day, multi-venue art tour. More on ArtPrize later.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Second shoelace syndrome

Sock knitters sometimes suffer from Second Sock Syndrome. They get one sock done but somehow sock #2 never materializes. I avoid this by knitting both at the same time, more or less, alternating between the two socks until done. I haven't figured out how to do that when weaving shoelaces on an inkle loom although I'm sure there is a way. Since weaving a shoelace takes about an hour, though, it doesn't seem like such a big deal.

I'm still experimenting with yarn width and technique. In the photo above, the lace on the left is 8/2 cotton carpet warp, knit tubular, 15 ends; the one in the middle is 8/4 cotton carpet warp, knit tubular, 15 ends; and the one on the right is 8/4 cotton carpet warp, knit flat, 15 ends. Once I wrestle the ends into aglets, I'll actually lace them into some shoes, to see what I think.

Another issue is getting them the same length. I tried comparing one lace off the loom with one on the loom, but there was about a 2" difference. Not a big deal, easily corrected.

Until I get those aglets, I finished off the ends by wrapping them with one of the warp threads, as described in The Weaver's Inkle Pattern Directory, by Anne Dixon. This technique is meant for securing the ends of braids and cords, but it also seems handy here. I may have to undo the wrap when I add the aglets. (I ordered metal aglets through Amazon.)

Today six spools of 8/2 arrived in the mail: red, black, white, silver, orange, purple. The weaving stash groweth. Woohoo!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A day in the country

I went to a "spin in" two Fridays ago, at my weaving pal Peggy's home in the country. There were four of us altogther, and I think I was the only one without sheep of my own. Since I was spinning roving from Butterball, one of the Salomon Farm sheep I tended two summers ago, I could at least pretend. BTW, I *love* spinning Lincoln.

We didn't get much spinning done because we were yakking and busy admiring Peggy's devotion to all things fiber. First and foremost was the fiber studio, where we set up our wheels. It's difficult to see but there is a loom on the front porch, which I'll describe farther down.

One of the tools in Peggy's fiber toolbox is an antique walking wheel. She demonstrated it for us: the yarn comes off the end of the spindle and twists as the spinner walks backwards, then the yarn is wound onto the spindle as the spinner walks forward. This model has an accelerator, to increase the ratio of turns from the wheel to the spindle.

There were also looms in the cabin, big ones, and more looms in the basement (as shown here) because once one moves beyond knitting needles and crochet hooks, a single room is not enough space. Most of the looms were warped with projects in progress.

Also in the basement was this large motorized drum carder. Peggy complained that even with the motor, it was not fast enough to satisfy her needs, as she has a lot of fiber to process.

Peggy started growing flax a couple of years ago, and sheaves of it drying were drying in the immaculate garage. Flax for linen is different from flax for eating, as the former has a long stalk that encases the fiber while the latter has more branches and seeds. The stalks must be soaked (or retted, for all you crossword puzzle fans out there) to partially rot them and get access to the long fibers within.

What you can't see in the photo above is the stacks of boxes that line two walls. I didn't think too much about the boxes - we all have boxes of stuff in our garages, right? - until I realized that the writing on them indicated they contained fleeces, both purchased and from Peggy's small flock. She doesn't breed her three ewes, so we referred to them as the "spinsters".

Now, about that loom on the porch. It was difficult to get decent photos of it, but if you Google "weighted Nordic loom" you will find better ones, plus videos of how to weave on them. Key features are the loom is vertical, you weave away from you instead of toward you, and the warp tension is maintained by weights hanging below.

Peggy first saw this type of loom while watching a special on TV, and this one was built by her handy husband. She weaves three or four wefts in a row before beating them in place with a "sword". Once enough material has been woven, it is rolled onto the beam at the top. BTW, the fiber on this loom is all from Peggy's flock, handspun by her.

If I understood Peggy correctly, the weights were poured using the same mix one would use for a granite countertop, with a straw to provide a hole for attaching to the warp.

Besides touring Peggy's fiber dreamland, the four of us talked fiber. It was probably the most fun I have had in a while, not because my life is totally boring (although some might think so) but because it is rare to have the opportunity to share with fiber-centric friends.

On a side note, last Tuesday I attended a meeting of the Spinners and Flaxers Guild here in Fort Wayne. The program was a hands-on demonstration of tablet or card weaving. We didn't have time to finish our sample projects, so I'll write more about that at a later date.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Spinning dervish

Ever since renewing my spinning skills (such as they are), I have been trying to cement them to memory. Now I can say, "I am a spinner" instead of "I have a wheel and lots of roving". Just in time, as I have been invited to a "spin in" this Friday.

Most of this is mystery yarn, meaning I can't recall where the roving came from. The first two I spun about halfway through the roving before abandoning it for some reason. The white is quite soft.

The brown is quite course. It might be from Audrey and Duncan.

This taupe came out kind of fluffy.

These three natural colors go quite well together, I think.

I know where the roving for this one came from: the Big Red Barn. They combine roving of pre-selected colors for the color-challenged (like me) into "roses", to be blended by the purchaser. I actually blended and spun the yarn a while ago but didn't get it all plied. I took it with me to the remedial spinning lesson, to refresh my plying skills.

My pledge going forward is to do a better job labeling roving so I know what it is and where it came from. This also means labeling the yarn after it comes off the spool, so I know how much is there, in both yards and weight and (ideally) wraps-per-inch. Record keeping is all part of the fun and creates a story behind the yarn.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Neverending scarf

At least that is how I felt while weaving this pink, gray, and black scarf. I was aiming for about 72", it came out 83", not a ridiculous length. I was also aiming for something more plaid instead of checkerboard, but I'm satisfied.

Loom: Ashford SampleIt
Yarn: Green Mountain Spinnery New Mexico Organic (gray), Lion Brand Lion Cashmere Blend (black), Manos del Uruguay Maxima (pink)
EPI: 7.5
PPI: 8
Warp: 8 pink, 2 black, 8 gray, 2 black, 8 pink, 2 black, 8 gray, 2 black, 8 pink
Weft: same pattern as warp

This project is the first time I tried hemstitiching, which I think worked out well. It is also the first time for twisted fringe, which turned out... odd. I twisted and tied the ends before washing when I think it might have been better to do it after, as the different yarns ended up different lengths.

The only error I could find was midway, where I duplicated the gray block instead of alternating with a pink one. Also, I missed one pair of black weft rows, but I was able to weave that in after it came off the loom. I thought I saw a float but can't find it now, so it must be invisible.

I've been busy, busy, busy lately with a new dog and with SPINNING! I returned to my spinning teacher for a remedial lesson and Betty got me going again. I'm really enjoying it.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Had to try it

While perusing The Weaver's Inkle Pattern Directory, by Anne Dixon, I came across a description of tubular inkle weaving. Most knitters are familiar with idiot cord, or i-cord. This is basically the same thing: the shuttle goes in the same side instead of back and forth between sides, creating a tube or round cord. Of course, I had to try this out.

I wanted three stripes of equal width, and thought I needed the same color on both sides of the tape in order for the weft to be invisible. I warped 2-5-5-3 in green, yellow, pink, green, all in Maysville 8/4 carpet warp. This worked out great, although splitting the green may have been unnecessary since I was wefting from only one side.

I chose a short warp length, which still produced almost five feet of cord. The colors spiral naturally, although part of the "rhythm" of tubular weaving includes giving the tape a little twist. One can do an S-twist or a Z-twist.

A possible use for tubes of weaving is as shoelaces, although I think 8/2 would be a better yarn size to use for this purpose. Other uses I can think of off the top of my head are spiral bowls and round coasters. Any more ideas out there?

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's addicting

I started my first inkle project on August 12, finished it the next day. For one thing, once one develops a rhythm, the weaving goes quickly. For another, it is SO addicting!

I thought maybe I had made a mistake warping such a long project, but now I have 96" of inkle tape, to do something with. I think it is enough for a dog collar and leash. I haven't washed it yet, so it may shrink a bit.

Can you tell which end is the beginning and which the end? To vary the width of a tape, one can tug hard or not, depending on what one's aim is. My aim was to be consistent, and I eventually achieved that. More or less.

A question in the back of my mind right now is, Will I ever return to knitting? It's not unusual for me to fall off knitting during the summer, but now I am wondering if I am on the cusp of abandoning it in favor of weaving. Time (and the arrival of winter weather) will tell.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Inkle dinkle doo

I belong to the Fort Wayne Weavers Guild, a great bunch of talented and generous people. By talented, I mean I spend a good part of the each meeting with my mouth hanging open, stunned by what they produce with their looms. It's both inspiring and intimidating. By generous, I mean they are very welcoming to newcomers and eager to help and share their knowledge. Part of that transfer of knowledge occurs during what they call Super Saturdays, when those interested meet at a member's house and learn something new.

I haven't been able to attend any Super Saturdays until today, when the subject was how to weave on an inkle loom. I've been very interested in learning this because it looks like fun, is a great way to create fancy strips of cloth for a wide variety of uses, and hey, I need a new loom (like a hole in the head).

Like most learning experiences, we exhibited awkwardness and confusion, but once we got our looms warped and started the actual weaving, it became easier and fun. There are a few tricky bits to achieving a consistent looking result, but that comes with practice.

I used Maysville 8/4 Cotton Rug Warp, in colors 'Tulip', 'Yellow', and 'Light Jade' (my granddaughter picked them out). My loom is an Ashford Inkle (not the Inklet which is very compact and portable). I had no problem assembling the loom, but still need to apply a finish. That will have to wait until I complete my practice project. I warped the longest way possible, so I'm more likely to end up with a bunch of somethings that are usable.

Inkle looms are good for making all kinds of things, from bookmarks and bracelets and shoelaces to dog collars and leashes to guitar straps and tote bag handles to tote bags themselves. I see lots of fun in my future.