Monday, April 16, 2018

Some ideas and what to do with them

I don't know much about art, and what I do know I learned from my SO. I credit him with leading by example. He studies the work of others, then incorporates some of what he sees when editing his photographs. For example, while he was into Mark Rothko, his photos had a lot of red in them.

Lately, I have been trying to make note of various fiber artists, looking for ideas I can incorporate into my own work. Right now I am primarily interested in weaving and what I can do with it to create interesting fabric. There are techniques to use but also influences to incorporate.

The question is, how best to record ideas I get from the works of others? A fiber friend of mine is working on a fiber journal (which she hopes to copyright and sell). Hard copy doesn't work well for me, so I use Ravelry and this blog to record my projects. The question is, how to keep track of ideas pre-project?

Some people use a vision board, which is certainly one idea. Again, that is usually hard copy and usually focused on one project or goal. Each photo here could be the start of a vision board, but then what? Do I hang them around the room I euphemistically refer to as "the studio"? That room has little wall space (it's mostly windows), so that does not seem practical.

So I am back to this blog, where I can create an entry with ideas, but then will have to remember to LOOK at it once in a while. I have many more ideas, too, that don't involve photos as inspiration; how to record them without losing track of them? What do you do?

These photos are from Fiberarts Design Book Five. It's from the local library, from which it must return someday. I did not try to make great pictures from them as that is beside the point. I did try to include the identifying text.

This photo got me thinking about how to weave boxes with something different in each box. The different thing might be yarn and/or design and/or technique and/or not even weaving. The box edges (or even the contents) could be added after the fact, say with embroidery or applique.

If I want to make something wearable, kimonos are one way to go. What I liked about these two designs is how no neck shaping is used. Instead, the kimonos drape open. They also show different sleeve types. They demonstrate that lining is an important design element.

The inspiring object in this photo is the one on the right. I have seen lap robes that resemble shelves of books. This design is similar. Left over sock yarn might be a good choice for warp and/or weft.

I'm intrigued with the object on the left below, envisioning an area rug with a similar design but maybe more colors. Obviously weft faced.

Below, the object on the right would also be weft faced but more complicated.

So many ideas, so little time!

Sunday, April 08, 2018

PlyAway 2018

I'm not much for traveling just for the sake of traveling or sightseeing. But if there is a fiber event nearby, count me in! I had never heard of PlyAway but it seemed like a good excuse to go to Kansas City. My SO has family there, so he was happy to make the trip, too.

Westward ho!

We drove. Weather forecasts were iffy, so that meant packing extra clothes, just in case it was warmer than expected or colder (it was wetter and windier, and the temps were a bit better than back home, but I was still overly optimistic in my tee shirt choices). The pic above is just my stuff. I moved the wheel into a back seat and belted it in, to make room for my SO's stuff. He's a photographer, so there was that gear, too.

I signed up for three classes: Spin Unusual Threads for Weaving, taught by Judith MacKenzie; Plying by Design, taught by Stephenie Gaustad; and Fiber Prep Elevated, taught by Mary Egbert. I was so engaged in each class that I neglected to take any photos until the last class. Also, my impression was that I was one of the least experienced spinners there, and keeping up with the instructor was a bit of a challenge, so besides no pics, I have little to show for my efforts. It's a good thing I took notes, otherwise I might feel like I learned nothing. Not so! Here are some highlights:

Spin Unusual Threads for Weaving: Even though the instructor implied that to be a weaver, one must weave on a harness loom, I learned techniques I can use on my rigid heddle looms. An unexpected piece of advice was to use one's handspun for the warp - put all the color and texture in the warp and weft with whatever. If the handspun is something likely to break, warp it with a fine fiber like silk thread - the silk will disappear after fulling. Yarn spun worsted is best for warp, though, while woolen works well for weft. Alternate Z-spun and S-spun threads in the warp to produce a shimmer. We practiced cabling 2-ply silk threads while wrapping them in wool or imprecating (entrapping) fiber between the threads. Another handy trick is to cable silk with a metallic thread, wrapping it in wool, then ply with wool yarn, to make the metallic thread more subtle. All these ideas (and more!) were mind-boggling to me and opened up a new world of yarn creation. Unfortunately, all the thread I created became bound up on the bobbin and will probably have to be cut off. I wish there had been a handout; I also wish the prerequisites had listed knowing how to spin woolen, so I could have been better prepared.

Plying by Design: There was a handout for this class, thank goodness, as there was a lot of info discussed. I wish I had brought about 5 empty bobbins, however, as the recommended two full of Z-spun singles and one empty didn't get me far. A white board would have been helpful as well, as sometimes the instructor's verbal instructions were a bit complex. Spinners are such an opinionated bunch - one teacher will say X, but if you ask another teacher about X, she may say that is all wrong or just give you a blank stare. This teacher was no exception: umbrella swifts are "evil", don't use ball winders because they change the twist, the only way to set twist is with steam, etc. Again, I struggled and my samples were a mess, but I learned some good stuff, too.

Fiber Prep Elevated: This class was the most fun, primarily because we each had our very own 8" Clemes & Clemes MOTORIZED drum carder to work with. OMG! I wish I could justify blowing $1K-2K on one of these machines. We also were equipped with all the tools we needed to create lovely batts of fiber. I was disappointed we did nothing with hand carders and practically nothing with combs (just a demo, although when I came back early from lunch, I tried my hand at combing), we did a lot of color blending. This year's programs in my weavers guild have accentuated color, and this class helped solidify that learning. It is also the one class I had decent enough results for photos.


One exercise had us creating an ombre batt: one person blended a color (in our case magenta) with white, one person blended it with gray, and a third person blended it with black; then we combined all three of those into a single batt.


Working with a "cmy primary mixing wheel", we tried our hand at blending. The primary colors on this wheel are cyan, magenta, and yellow (cmy). I tried mixing equal parts of magenta and yellow to get red, but without a scale, my proportions were a bit off, so I ended up with more of a tangerine color.

Pass 1

Pass 2

Pass 3

Final result

Another exercise was to select a photo and use it to inspire a color combo.

Blueberry parfait


I experimented with creating an ombre in blues. The fun thing about blending colors is if the result doesn't seem quite right, just add more of whatever you need to correct it. Having a motorized drum carder really made this easy.

Blue ombre

We made tweed batts as well. While the instructor said I "got" it, the color flecks seem too subtle to me. Maybe once I spin this up, I will change my mind.

Purple tweed

Tweed detail

Besides classes, from Thursday noon on, the vendor area was open. Quite frankly, I have more fiber, from fleece to yarn, than any sane person should have, and was quite pleased with my restraint. I also have a rule regarding fiber fests: I take $200 in cash, and when that is gone, I am done buying. In the pic below, the blue tool on the left was included in the material fee for the fiber prep class; it's a "brush cleaner" but we used it to remove the final invisible wisps of fiber on the drum carders. The other items are a wraps-per-inch (WPI) tool, a burnisher (packs the fiber onto the drum carder), a diz threader, a diz, a pair of earrings that look like spindles, and a fringe twister.

Little purchases

All participants also received a swag bag full of mostly samples of fiber. What does one do with all these little samples? I think I might blend them with something basic like merino, and knit myself a PlyAway souvenir.


Most of my fiber equipment is from Ashford. Consequently, I have watched a lot of their UTube videos which invariably start out "This is Kate from Ashford". So I was excited when I saw Kate from Ashford in the vendor area! I gushed about the videos, and she graciously asked someone to take our picture. My local dealer was impressed.

Almost famous!

Since I wasn't able to get into all the classes I wanted, we had time to make a side trip to Lawrence, to visit the Yarn Barn. I had tried to make a purchase from them online a while back, but everything I wanted was back ordered. Well, I was able to fulfill my original order, and then some, that day. It was mostly spools of carpet warp and skeins of rug yarn, plus some silk thread. Now I am set for a while.

PlyAway is held at the Westin, and I was able to get the special rate for all but one night of our stay, but I still found myself hyperventilating occasionally over just how much money this trip cost. I had to keep giving myself permission to be okay with that. I try to learn as much as possible from books, videos, local experts, and nearby fiber fest classes that cost a pittance, but the PlyAway classes were definitely a step (or three!) above what I am used to. I'm glad I went.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Blue sky baby cables

My old pair of baby cable socks is wearing thin in toe and sole. I knit them in 2011 and they got a lot of wear, so I am not surprised. Also, maybe the wool-bamboo-nylon combo is not quite as tough as wool-nylon. Anyway, it was time for a replacement pair.

Pattern: Short row toe and heel toe-up (Wendy Johnson) and four-stitch pattern baby cable (Charlene Schurch)
Yarn: Simply Sock Yarn Co Simply Sock, in 'Blue Skies' and 'Silver Lining'
Needles: US1
Modifications: Just the usual but with the baby cable stitch pattern

One reason I chose to go with a solid yarn color is to have something that I can wear with patterned leggings. Some people can pull off "interesting" mix 'n match outfits, but not me. A solid color yarn, though, calls for something other than stockinette.

I have tons of sock yarn, but mostly in self-striping or self-patterning colorways which I tend to knit in plain stockinette - fast and easy. The baby cables are not difficult but take some concentration to stick with the four-row repeat error-free. They also took longer because I am such an awkward knitter.

I've been listening to Ron Chernow's Grant on CD while I knit. Up to disk 20 out of 36 (or is it 38?) I'm not really into the Civil War, so it has been a bit tedious, but also eye-opening.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Big Twist throw rug

My original plan was to weave a bath mat using the black/gray/white 'Cobblestone' colorway for both the warp and weft. Early on, I rejected the combo and unwove the few inches I had worked up. Instead, I knitted Absorba in its place. Still, I didn't want to waste the warp.

I purchased more of the same yarn in 'Redwood' and used that for the weft. I still wasn't quite satisfied, but doubling the yarn created a fabric I was quite pleased with.

The washing instructions for the yarn said to handwash even though it is 80% acrylic and 20% wool. I worked up a quick swatch and threw it in with a load of colors to see if it would shrink. I didn't detect any shrinkage but the yarn did fuzz up a bit.

I fulled the final product by putting it through the "gentle" cycle of my washing machine. Again, the yarn fuzzed up a bit. I would not put this in a high traffic area or where it will pick up a lot of dirt because I doubt it would withstand excessive abrasion or cleaning.

The final dimensions of the rug are 48" long and 19" wide, a perfect size for my master bath. Unfortunately, the 'Redwood' does not go with my decor. What was I thinking?

I played around with the idea of turning this into a big project bag, even purchasing 8/4 carpet warp in black, gray, and white to weave a matching strap on my inkle loom. But the fabric seemed too floppy for a bag.

I asked my SO if he would like it as a rug, and he glommed onto it right away. He has lovely hardwood floors whereas I don't. I trimmed back the fringe using my trusty self-healing cutting pad and circular cutters. (I love useful tools!)

Just when I thought I was done, and after I had taken photos, I noticed the ends of the fringe were coming undone, so I knotted the tips.

Yarn: Big Twist Yarns Natural Blend, ombre in 'Cobblestone' for the warp, solid in 'Redwood' for the weft (doubled)
Loom: Ashford rigid heddle 24", using a 2.5 dent heddle

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Midnight Blush roving rose to yarn

I purchased this "roving rose" at the Jay County Spin-in in 2014. There was an ounce of white, an ounce of navy, an ounce of pink, and an ounce of blended colors, in llama, alpaca, and wool. I grabbed it to take with me to the February meeting of the local spinning guild and spun up the already-blended bit.

I tried to blend the solid colors on-the-fly at the meeting, but that was a FAIL. So later that week, I experimented with blending the three colors at home, using all the tools at my disposal.

A blending board is absolutely perfect for blending roving. You just "paint" the board with the fibers, layering colors as you wish.

The result is a fat sausage of a rolag. If the colors seem too separate, you can re-blend them, until they meet with your approval.

I didn't take notes, but I think I re-blended these rolags at least once, if not twice.

Or not.

I also tried blending on my new drum carder. This worked fine, although it would take some experimenting to get the combination you want.

The resulting batt can be run through again (and again) but from this pic, I think I opted out.

Hand carders may also be used to blend fiber, sort of like a mini-blending board.

I'm not very adept at using the hand carders.

Of these three methods, I like the blending board best. The rolags are fat and tight, and I think you have better control of the outcome.

More fun: spinning the blended fiber! The different methods produced different yarn, depending on how the colors mixed and fed into the wheel.

So now there are four ounces of llama-alpaca-wool, enough for a nice cozy pair of mittens, methinks. I have plenty of hats and scarves but not enough handwear.

But first, I'll take the yarn to the spinning guild for "show and tell".

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Daffodil scarf

While I have a regular method for reporting on knitted FOs, I am still struggling a bit with woven goods. It would help if I kept some notes as I go along. Usually I do this in Ravelry for knitting; now I can do the same for weaving AND spinning, if I just get into the habit.

My goals with this scarf were to explore color and color inspiration (hence the "daffodil" theme) and to play with plaid. I think I achieved these goals. An ongoing goal is to create even selvages; while there is less pull-in with this project, the selvages are still rather raggedy.

Loom: Ashford Samplet 10"
EPI: 10
PPI: 10 (actual around 15)
Dimensions: Before fulling: ? x ?; after fulling: 4" x 80" (not including fringe)
Yarn: Valley Yarn Valley Superwash DK, in 'Red', 'Soft Yellow', 'Spring Leaf', 'Green'

I am still beating too hard, so the goal of 10 ppi was not met. I also was a bit confused over which heddle I was using, as at first I thought it was the 7.5 epi one. Like I said, I need to keep better notes, from step 1 on.

Personally, I prefer worsted weight yarn for scarves, be they knit or woven. I just happen to have a fair amount of DK superwash on hand, so that is what I am playing with.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Blew out my felted slipper

I made these felted slippers in 2009. They were for my SO, but for some reason he left them at my house and rarely wore them. This past winter, I reclaimed them. It didn't take long for a hole to open up in the heel.

In a way, I am glad this happened, as I have been contemplating stash busting by making more of these. Now I know that I need to double up on the heels and/or add a sole of some sort.

I've also been contemplating how to fix these or at least repurpose them. Any suggestions?