Tuesday, June 25, 2019

One rug done

The spinning guild challenge project is done, just in the nick of time. The floor runner is approximately 5' long and 15" wide. While I am pleased with the results, I wouldn't make another rug from Shetland; I chose it because it is supposed to be pill-resistant, but it is also rather fuzzy.

The cotton/poly edging at each end is secured with an overcast stitch. Then I created a fold using Philippine ties, weaving in the ends. The instructions for these finishing methods may be found in Finishing Touches for the Handweaver, by Virginia M. West.

How to photograph the finished product? Show the end striping...

... and the front and back...

...and then a couple of full length shots.

At the spinning guild, we were encouraged to enter our projects in the county fair. From what others have said, the judges are not very familiar with fiber arts, but it might be worth the effort, just to see what they say. Stay tooned!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The old swatcheroo

My spinning guild issued a challenge: spin for a project, then execute the project. Lucky for me, I already had a project like that sorta started: weave a runner for in front of the sofa. With the deadline looming, I am (finally) putting the pedal to the treadle.

But first. I decided I should make a swatch, to see if my assumptions were correct. Spoiler: some were, some were NOT.

One assumption was that I would weave 3 ppi (picks - or rows - per inch). That turned out to be false. The actual ppi is 5, which means I need to spin more yarn. Also, there was virtually no shrinkage of the swatch, so I don't have to worry (much) about that.

The roving I spun is not dyed. My assumption that the natural colors would play well together? Correct. The dark brown and light brown are both Shetland, which I chose because of its reputation to be pill-resistant. The white "art yarn" is my poor attempt to spin woolen, using Dorset Polypay. The yarn is 3-ply, because I was trying to imitate some commercial 3-ply rug yarn. The Shetland came out super bulky, at 5 wpi (wraps per inch), the Dorset Polypay is bulky, at 7 epi. This variation will give the runner some visual texture (she said optimistically).

Yesterday I put on my big girl panties and warped the loom with 'Khaki' cotton/poly carpet warp. I really hate warping because I can't seem to get even tension across the loom, but this time it worked relatively well. The epi (ends per inch) is 5. (Pay no attention to the bright super bulky yarn - I use that to spread the warp.)

Although I wove only 10 rows of the carpet warp on the swatch, it seemed like enough to assume its quarter-inch length would translate to 40 ppi. On my rigid heddle loom, though, it was more like 35, even with beating. Today I finished up the edging at one end, securing it both fore and aft with a row of cross over stitches. This edging will be folded under (I think).

I did some cypherin' to figure out how much of each yarn to use where. The runner is supposed to be 18" wide and 72" long. As of right now, I plan to do the following:

  • 2" dark brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 3" light brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 2" dark brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 3" light brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 2" dark brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 3" light brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 36" dark brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 3" light brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 2" dark brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 3" light brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 2" dark brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 3" light brown
  • 3 picks white
  • 2" dark brown

I'm not exactly following the implied rules of spinning for the project, as I started spinning with a general idea of how I would use the yarn. I'm making the yardage determine the pattern instead of the other way around. But spinning bulky yarn is new for me, I have a lot of Shetland to use up, and the white was serendipitous. Good enough for me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Documenting dyeing

I've been rather resistant to documenting my dyeing escapades beyond posting in my blog. Then I KonMarie'd my kitchen, which created an empty cupboard that immediately filled up with hand spun yarn and the results of my dyeing experiments. However, the cupboard didn't seem like an improvement over keeping all that fiber in big plastic bags in a bedroom closet. I decided to bite the bullet and create a notebook of dye samples.

The first step (after purchasing some file folders from Office Depot) was to figure out just how much hand dyed yarn I had. I hauled it all out to the dining room, then searched the blog for digital documentation. Wow. That's a lot of dyeing.

I have the necessary hole-punching tools, plus a paper cutter, so I cut up the file folders to be about half the size of a piece of notebook paper and punched away. Most of the skeins had to be unwound at least partway, to get an 8" sample to attach; in the future, I will leave a bit hanging loose to eliminate this step.

I didn't want to duplicate all the details of each dye session, so I kept jottings to a minimum while including the blog post date for future reference. I chose not to list the yarn's location because that tends to change from time to time. Also, I didn't worry about making it look pretty.

For yarns dyed in workshops, I inserted handouts. If I had notes from my own dyeing episodes, I taped them to notebook paper and included them. Then I made a corny cover for the three-ring binder.

In order to avoid having to squint at the little tags attached to the skeins, I made a big tag for each set. While I may have to empty a shelf or two to find the yarn I am looking for, this system should save me time and effort.

The little tags on each skein indicate the weight and yardage. It might be useful to have that recorded somewhere (Ravelry?) to reference during project planning, but that seems like a lot of extra work. I've already used some of my hand dyed, for a tapestry sampler. Maybe after another project or two, I'll change my mind.

Once I am done with the hand dyed, I plan to do something similar with the hand spun.

Do you document your fiber projects?

Friday, April 19, 2019

Under the wire

I was working on a pair of socks for my son's girl friend when they announced they were coming to visit... in a week! The socks were about half done, but I calculated how much to knit per day and decided I could get them done by then. A couple of days my hands protested, and the socks were still a bit damp from blocking, but they were delivered on time.

Pattern: Short-row Toe and Heel Basic Socks, by Wendy D. Johnson
Yarn: Brenda and Heather Yarns Fluffy Feet, in 'Napoleon' and Simply Socks Yarn Company Simply Sock, in 'Natural'
Needles: US1
Modifications: None

This is the first time I have used the BaH yarn. The "natural" stripes are a bit yellow, didn't quite match the SSYC "natural". If I had realized this fact at the start, I would have planned the socks so that the two "natural" colors were not next to each other. Oh, well. Wabi sabi. The recipient appreciated them regardless.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Serendipity, baby!

I'm sorry I've been so lax in the blogging department. My SO and I enrolled in a pottery class, plus there have been plays to see and a granddaughter to take on a field trip and other assorted activities that just piled up.

One activity was a trip to Wisconsin to visit my SO's son and family. Initially, we were invited to my nephew's birthday party near Chicago, but hey, it's only another 90 minutes to Milwaukee, where hey, it's only another 90 minutes to Two Rivers. In other words, we spent at least three hours in the car every day we were gone. That's a lot of sitting!

What's in Two Rivers? Not much besides the Hamilton Wood Type Museum. My interest in letterpress started when I found an antique print tray at the Natural Fiber and Yarn Company in Grand Rapids, OHIO. The handle said Hamilton Mfg. Hamilton is a family name of mine, so I had to buy it. One thing led to another (including viewing the movie Pressing On), and I decided if we were ever in the area, we should visit the museum.

I'm always seeing things to weave, and I think wood type would make a great tapestry.

We also stopped in at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts in Cedarburg. The current exhibit was (and still is, until the end of the month) Native Fiber. I didn't take many pix (and I apologize for the quality of the following), but had to record this piece, since some of the cones are made from clay and, as I said, I am taking a pottery class.

And if visiting these two places was not enough, when we reached the fiber arts museum, a fiber arts tour was in progress! We didn't have time to visit all the stops, but did make it to The Arts Mill in Grafton, where I chatted up a woman teaching eco dyeing.

Meanwhile, I have been knitting and spinning. The knitting is for a pair of socks for my son's girl friend. They announced an impending visit this coming Tuesday, so I am frantically trying to finish them up before then. The spinning is experimental, so nothing to show for that yet. OH! And I bought a fleece from a local farm, a Jacob. There's always something, right?

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Back to Portland

That's Portland INDIANA, not Maine or Oregon, where the Jay County Fiber Arts Festival is held each year. I skipped 2018 because I went to PlyAway in Kansas City. This year, I decided to take a class with Kate Larson, to see what all the hubbub was about, bub.

Among my spinning and weaving coterie there are several fans of Kate Larson. My SO and I visited Moontree Studios to view her show there. Now Kate is the editor of Spin Off Magazine, but she continues to teach.

I decided to take the class that met Friday afternoon, partly because it was the only one that specifically mentioned needing to know how to spin and ply, partly because it suited my lazy retirement schedule. The class was Gradient Yarns: A Spinner's Study in Shifting Shades. I wasn't sure what to expect, but given my still rudimentary understanding of spinning yarn, I figured I would learn something new. And I did.

Most of my spinning is of fiber in its natural colors - natural, gray, brown, etc. So working with gradient colorways was a fun change of pace for me. I do know that color is an optical thing - some colors look brighter or sadder or even like a different color, depending on what they are paired with. My favorite anecdote that illustrates this is how I painted my bedroom lavender, then installed gray carpeting. The gray sucked the blue right out of the walls, turning them pink. A more recent story involves some red Tunis wool I am spinning - the gray that is mixed in disappears by the time it is spun and plied.

Below are three samples of the same colorway. The one on the left is thread plied - a single plied with a single thread of silk, the one in the middle is simply a single spun worsted, and the one on the right is core spun - fiber spun around a thin core of something relatively sticky like silk/mohair lace weight. See the difference?

Another example of one colorway, thread plied on the left, a spun single on the right. Now I am wondering what will happen if I thread ply a single of the red Tunis with white, gray, or black. Must sample to find out.

In class, after warming up with a luscious yak-silk-merino blend (three fibers that play well when all together, not so nice in twosome combos), we spun three singles, then thread plied one and marled another with gray. Obviously, the gray saddens the colorway, but the black thread brightens it. Magic.

I also received a bit of a goose regarding documenting one's spinning. Kate had a range of office supplies to assist with that, including sticky dots. By wrapping the yarn around a folded index card, then attaching the sticky dots, the fiber can be mounted onto a heavy page and put in a binder.

I also tried my hand at adding beads while chain plying. No pix because the result was quite a mess, but I will try again with some fiber I am more familiar with. Kate also demonstrated core plying, something else I want to try. In fact, I was wondering how that might work for creating a rug yarn.

This type of class really opens my eyes to many new possibilities when it comes to spinning yarn. The class size was much more amenable to the learning process, compared to PlyAway. Also, Kate is incredibly personable, friendly, helpful, encouraging, and knowledgeable. If you ever have the opportunity to take a class from her, DO IT!

A visit to a fiber fest is also the opportunity to BUY STUFF. When I first arrived, I ate lunch (sloppy Joe, Fritos, and PIE), then cruised the vendors for ways to spend my money. I kept running into people I know, which slowed me down a bit, but I saw a frame loom I was interested in. Alas, when I returned after class, the looms were apparently all sold out. I resisted all the fiber, so the only item I purchased was Kate's book, Wool: the Practical Spinner's Guide. Only after arriving home did it occur to me I should have had Kate autograph it.

One more lesson learned: when I attended PlyAway, I signed up for as many classes as I could. By the time we left, I was exhausted. Yesterday, on the drive home, I was wishing I had enrolled in Kate's other two classes. But then I realized how tired I felt. A novel I read uses picking raspberries as a metaphor - you don't need to pick all the raspberries to savor the one in your mouth. Also, my brain felt full enough of new ideas - no need to overdo it.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Walnut baby cable rib socks

I knit both my SO and me a pair of baby cable rib socks lo, these many years ago (2011) in Fortissima Socka Degradee Color fingering yarn. I really liked how they turned out because of the gradient colorway. Alas, they did not hold up very well, wearing thin on the soles. So I decided to knit us some more. I finished mine about a year ago, and just this past week, finished my SO's.

Pattern: Short-row toe and heel basic socks, by Wendy D. Johnson, and baby cable rib, by Charlene Schurch.
Yarn: S.R. Kertzer On Your Toes 4 Ply with Aloe Vera, in brown, and unknown base yarn, hand dyed with black walnut, by Little Shop of Spinning
Needles: US1
Modifications: not really

Even though I have knit these socks before, this time I ran into a lot of (self-inflicted) trouble, especially with the toes. The dark brown yarn was difficult for my old eyes to see. Then I also did dumb things like continue the rib pattern across the sole instead of using plain stockinette. But I persevered and eventually got 'er done.

I've already cast on another pair, as I always like to have a portable knitting project on hand. But I would also like to complete some mittens to match a scarf and hat and sweater. Hopefully, both mittens and wool socks will become unnecessary soon, if this wacky weather ever decides spring has sprung.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Spinning for projects quandry

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been spinning with projects in mind - a rug and a sweater/wrap. I have two spinning wheels, a Kiwi2 and a Joy2, both from Ashford. I am spinning the fat rug yarn on the Kiwi2, the sweater yarn on the Joy2. This way I can work on both project yarns without having to swap out bobbins.

Single, on bobbin

The sweater roving is pink and gray, feels like a mixture of breeds (hopefully, I will find something with the name of the fiber on it) and is kind of coarse. Despite a fair amount of VM (vegetable matter), it spins up nicely. It did bleed a bit when soaked to set the twist.

A little bleeding

Lately, I have become enamored with three-ply, which is good for the fat rug yarn. I'm not so sure about using three-ply for the sweater, though. The pattern calls for worsted weight yarn, but my three-ply is more like aran or even bulky. Not that I couldn't adjust the gauge and knit it with a heavier yarn, I'm just not sure I want to.

7-8 wraps per inch

Three-ply yarn knits up smoother, especially in stockinette, because the yarn is round; it also pills less than 2-ply. An alternative to knitting with the aran weight yarn would be to spin finer singles and 3-ply those into a worsted weight yarn. That is an option.


When plying singles, invariably one bobbin runs out before the others. When that happened with the 3-ply, I plied the remaining singles into a 2-ply. Now I have samples of each, to knit swatches with.

9 wraps per inch

2-ply on left, 3-ply on right

The Veronika cardigan pattern has a lot of positive ease, so gauge is not critical. Since I don't really like a lot of positive ease, I plan to knit the smaller size, in which case I might care more about gauge. Also, I don't want to run out of yarn since I won't be able to buy more of this roving.

2-ply swatch, in purl ridge stitch

About 30 rows per 4", aiming for 26

After swatching the worsted weight and hitting the stitches-per-inch gauge, I thought, This is it! But I am having second thoughts, so I will knit up the aran weight, to see if I like it better. Also, I am playing around with the idea of widening the stockinette area between the garter ridges, then knitting the garter ridges in a contrasting color, like black.

16 stitches per 4"

Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Polar vortex dyeing, with dyers coreopsis

While looking forward to days of frigid temps, I decided it was a good time to dye. There were several choices available from my dye stash, but I chose dyers coreopsis (coreopsis tinctoria). Per usual, it was an experiment.

Working from Jenny Dean's Wild Color, this time I tried extracting dye from the flowers by pouring boiling water over them and letting them steep, instead of simmering the blossoms. A true experimenter would try it both ways, but I had only 200g of flowers to work with. Then I mixed and matched mordants and modifiers.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how the dye bath can look one color, but the yarn turn out another. And then the yarn samples differ depending on the mordants used. Post-dyeing modifiers create even more shades of color.

I don't know what I did wrong, but some of the yarn skeins developed dark patches. This occurred during the post-dye application of an alkali modifier. But I still wound up with a nice assortment of colors and shades of colors.

From left, in pics above and below:

  • no mordant/no modifier; 
  • alum mordant/no modifier; 
  • no mordant/alkali modifier;
  • alum mordant/alkali modifier; 
  • rhubarb leaf mordant/no modifier;
  • rhubarb leaf mordant/alkali modifier; 
  • no mordant/iron added to dye bath; 
  • alum mordant/iron added to dye bath;
  • rhubarb leaf mordant/iron added to dye bath.

Below: no mordant; from left, no modifier, alkali modifier, iron in dye bath.

Below: alum mordant; from left, no modifier, alkali modifier, iron in dye bath.

Below: rhubarb leaf mordant; from left, no modifier, alkali modifier, iron in dye bath.

Below: from left, no mordant, alum mordant, rhubarb leaf mordant; no modifier.

Below: from left, no mordant, alum mordant, rhubarb leaf mordant; alkali modifier.

Below: from left no mordant, alum mordant, rhubarb leaf mordant; iron in dye bath.

How do I keep track of what is what? I create a "cheat sheet". Each skein is assigned a letter, written in Sharpie on a piece of plastic that is attached to the skein all through the process. The information is transferred to each skein's info tag, which contains fiber information on one side (in this case, Cascade 220, plus length and weight) and dye information on the other.

Another question you might have is why I added iron to the dye bath. That was half experiment, half accident. The experiment part arose from the fact that some natural dyes look different on vegetable fibers like cotton than they do on protein fibers like wool or silk. So I purchased some yardage of muslin ("natural" - unbleached - on the right, below) from Dharma Trading Co. However, I wasn't sure how to handle it. So I threw a yard into the dye bath, which produced a light tan (middle sample, below). Another yard was pretreated with an iron mordant. I neglected to rinse the iron out of the material before putting it into the dye bath, which resulted in "saddening" the dye color; that produced an olive green (left sample, below). I also discovered that rinsing muslin is much different from rinsing wool yarn. So much color came out of the unmordanted sample that I treated it to a vinegar bath in an attempt to set the color, but that didn't seem to make much of a difference. I should do more research before continuing with the cotton muslin aspect of my dye experiments.

Since the dye bath had been contaminated with iron, I decided to throw in a few more skeins of yarn. All in all, this dye experiment took three days, plus a day for clean up. A tiring but satisfying way to spend the polar vortex. What did you do?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

What I have been up to

While I have not been posting here very often, I have been busy with fiber arts. For example, yesterday I attended a workshop put on the local weaving guild. We practiced finger pickup patterns on rigid heddle looms and hemstitching, then two of the many talented seamstresses in our guild shared their secrets for sewing with handwoven fabric. It didn't occur to me to take any pics - brain fart, I guess - but a good time was had by all despite the snowy weather.

The other guild I belong to, ostensibly for spinning, was a disappointment last year. This year looks more promising. For one thing, we were presented with a challenge: spin yarn for a specific project AND then actually complete the project, by the June meeting. I have been working on spinning fat rug yarn for a runner. It's funny how when one starts spinning, the yarn is fat, but with practice, it slims down. Now I *want* to spin fat yarn and am having difficulties. Referencing Jill Moreno's book Yarnitecture, I wrote up a crib sheet to help me: more take-up, larger whorl, more fiber, less twist, slow feet, fast hands. Also, I bought a jumbo flyer for plying the fat singles.

When I learned to spin, I optimistically purchased a sweatersworth of roving, thinking I would spin it up, then knit it up. Needless to say, that did not happen. Recently, I decided to spin up that roving, aiming for a three-ply worsted yarn, to make this "cardigan" which is actually more like a wrap. At the last weaving guild meeting, a member was wearing one she had knitted. I kept staring at it all through the meeting. This spin-to-knit project is not part of the above mentioned challenge, but will be a challenge nonetheless.

I have an idea for a tapestry project for the frame loom, which is warped and waiting, but couldn't decide on which techniques to use. So I started a practice piece on my Ashford SampleIt rigid heddle loom. Working from Carol K. Russell's The Tapestry Handbook, I've been trying my hand at shading techniques: gradations of dots, basic hatching, gradations using weft blends. The latter was not working out too well for me, so now I have switched to Jean Wilson's Soumak Workbook with the goal of sampling each one she describes. I'm having a little trouble not beating the weft too hard.

The ribbed baby cable socks are still in progress. I try to complete a four-round pattern repeat every day. Maybe they will be done before winter is over.

It's not Thursday, but here is a throw-back, from 2006. It's a Princess Snowball Cat Bed, from Stitch n Bitch. Many times I have contemplated getting rid of it, but invariably one of the pets decides it is the perfect spot for a nap. Since it "sparks joy" for them, I will keep it.

Hope you are keeping warm!