Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Saffron pocket loom debut

I really love the Mirrix loom that I purchased for the online tapestry weaving class I am taking. I love it so much I purchased their latest loom, the Saffron pocket loom. Unless you have really large pockets, it won't literally fit into a pocket, but it is small enough for traveling, can be easily disassembled to fit into a purse or project bag, and requires no special tools (except maybe a wrench or two).

It's total length is about ten inches. Unlike some frame looms, the plates provide a fixed sett, 8 epi. I think Mirrix is planning to offer plates with other setts, and when they do, all you need is a screwdriver to change plates.

The bottom beam is fixed; the top beam with its wing nuts allow you to adjust the length of your piece. You can also adjust the tension of your warp. While the wing nuts can be tightened by hand, to avoid torquing the loom, you may need to tighten the nuts with a pair of wrenches.

Warping is a snap. Here I used 8/4 cotton carpet warp in gray. Since the tension is adjustable, you can start weaving right at the base and continue all the way to the top, which gives you a four selvage piece. No fringe! I used a plastic fork as a beater.

My plan was to weave a sample for a rug I have been contemplating, using some yarn I recently recovered from an unfinished sweater. I wove some weft using warp, then a few sequences of the yarn, then a row of soumak which creates a fold for the tapestry, then a few more rows of yarn before beginning the rya/flossa thing. I repeated this pattern from the top so that I would not have to try to weave it at the end when things get crowded.

The technique I used was a kind of rya/flossa thing, wrapping around a large knitting needle (US 10.5, I think), without cutting the loops. My skill at this is still a bit amateurish - I have trouble remembering to keep the selvages even. My goal with this sample was to see how it felt underfoot as a rug.

One trait of this loop-making method is that the loops hang in one direction, as the expectation is the piece would hang on a wall, not lay on the floor. Consequently, one end is exposed while the other is hidden. Were I to make a rug, I might do a few loop rows in the opposite direction to correct this anomaly.

While pleased with the results - it is very rug-worthy - I have to ask myself if I really want to go to all that trouble on a large piece. The loop rows take time and effort and every four inches takes two yards of yarn. I want the rug to be about five feet long. That would be a LOT of looping... and I might not have enough yarn. I have a tendency to be overly ambitious with my weaving, and right now I want to keep things simpler.

BUT I really like this little loom. It offers some advantages over the 3-in-1 swatch maker, is designed specifically for tapestry weaving, and is very sturdy.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

I sewed!

With the new mandates coming down from on high about wearing masks when out in public, I decided to drag out my old Kenmore sewing machine and try making a few. I am not a sewer by any means, and my masks will win no prizes at the county fair, but I did manage to make three, based on a pattern in the NYTimes. (The NYT Covid-19 coverage is free right now, no pay wall.) I don't think they said anything about what the seam allowance should be, so I gave the first one, size small, a 1/2" seam allowance. That resulted in a mask that was too small. The second mask was size medium, with 1/4" seam allowance - too big! Back to size small but with a 1/4" seam allowance - aah! Just right!

Knitting: Still working on the socks. I'm about halfway through the foot.
Spinning: I finished spinning the first half of the 'Neapolitan' roving.
Weaving: Not much progress made with the online class because I have been playing with the Saffron pocket loom.

Last week I felt like I needed something new to distract myself, so I cracked open a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. I thought once I got the buildings and people done, the rest would come easy. Nope - too much white snow and ice, too much black night sky. And then I thought I had lost two pieces. I found one perilously close to the floor register. The other one was in the Roomba.

I hope you are all playing it safe, staying home, washing your hands, practicing social distancing. The thing I miss the most is hugs. That is the first thing I am going to do when this whole thing abates - give and get some hugs!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Routine or rut

If I'm not careful, one day turns into the next with nary a difference between them. As much as I enjoy my fiber activities, it is easy to feel like a routine is becoming a rut, especially when all events, appointments, meetings, dates are cancelled for the time being. I try to mix things up a bit, spend some time outside (when it is not raining), cook something different or differently, avoid too much screen time, MOVE, etc. Still, I have a grumpy day now and then.

Knitting: My MO is to knit both socks at the same time, to avoid the dreaded single sock syndrome. My shoulders can't take too much knitting, though, so I am limiting myself to three rounds per sock per day. That doesn't sound like much, but it is progress.
Spinning: I finished up the Lorna's Laces (and edited the posting to include yardage and weight totals). I'm disappointed that instead of worsted weight yarn, I ended up with something between Aran and bulky. So I am trying fractal spinning again, this time with Lone Star Arts superwash merino, in 'Neapolitan' (vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry), this time aiming for worsted.
Weaving: The online class continues, with hatching. I like the Mirrix loom I am using so much I ordered their Saffron pocket loom. I'll write a separate post on that, but I'll just say here that it is similar to the 3-in-1 Swatchmaker (except right now it has only one sett) but also employs a tensioning device.

When I was still working, my habit was to save most of the errand-running, housecleaning, and laundering for the weekend. After I retired, I tried to change that routine but apparently it is ingrained in my psyche. Today is Saturday, so I baked (cornbread and scones) and cooked (pancakes) and laundered. Tomorrow is Sunday and I will concentrate on cleaning the floors since the dogs are doing a splendid job of dragging in mud and dirt. They are not the best trained animals in the world, but they do hop in the tub on command, then "place" while they finish drying off. They (and the cats) are good companions for the duration.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

I fractaled

(I don't know what my problem is regarding getting photos in focus. Maybe it is the camera, maybe it is my eyes, maybe the whole world is currently out of focus (sure feels that way). I apologize for the quality of these pix.)

I overheard some spinners discussing fractal spinning and wondered what it is. According to this site, it is a way to divide some multicolored roving in such a way as to mix up the colors without making a mess of it. Basically, the spinner divides the roving in half lengthwise, then divides one of those halves lengthwise into 2, 3, or 4 pieces (I chose 3). The first half is spun on one bobbin; it may be drafted by pulling it lengthwise. The rest of the roving is spun on another bobbin. This creates one bobbin with long color runs and one bobbin with short color runs. Then the two singles are plied. Easy peasy.

I chose to work with 5 ounces of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Wool top (100% superwash merino) in 'Devon'. Merino is not one of my favorite wools to spin; I find it too slick, but moving the drive belt on my wheel helps hold the yarn together. After spinning a ton of light gray Shetland into super bulky, high grist yarn, I struggled a bit to get a thinner single.

After plying and steaming, I'm left with an incredibly bouncy yarn. I'm not quite done yet - I should have close to 200 yards when finished.

This effort doesn't represent my best spinning but the luscious colors help overcome the lack of consistency. It's also a fun way to experiment with spinning without going too crazy. And the results are sure to please.

UPDATE: Once this roving was all spun and plied and steamed, I ended up with 189 yards, 128 g, of Aran to Bulky yarn.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The retired introvert

I'd rather we were not going through the current COVID 19 crisis, but I have to admit I kind of like staying home without interruptions or distractions. It was a bit discombobulating at first, but after I learned to embrace the solitude, my attitude improved. Schools here are closed until May, the libraries until mid-April, no recitals to attend (which makes me a little sad), but there is plenty of fiber in this house to play with.

Fiber prep: I am still trying to unknit a sweater but even with the pattern before me, it is a puzzlement. I chose the pattern in part because of the unique construction. Apparently, it cannot be deconstructed.
Knitting: I started a new pair of socks. Originally, I could not decide what contrasting color to use for the toes, but today I selected some cheerful yellow. The daffodils in the yard will not be far behind.
Spinning: Still working on the fractal spinning. I am loving the colorway.
Weaving: Making progress with the online weaving class. I am loving that new Mirrix loom.

While I sit safely at home, there are others who work to keep us supplied with goods and services and protection and healthcare. Without them, we would all be doomed. To them, I say THANK YOU!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Keep calm and fiber on

Yesterday, the day after the governor cancelled all events that involve over 250 people, I met up with a friend at the Jay County Fiber Fest. Some vendors had bailed, the crowd was thin, didn't see any class trips (school is also cancelled for the next four weeks). We purchased a few things (just soap and silk thread for me), tried to spend some money in downtown Portland (such as it is - another tired Indiana town) but the gift shop was closed and the coffee shop proprietor was "out to lunch". Burgers at the Greazy Pickle were delish, though. Now it is time to (mostly) hunker down for the duration.

Spinning: Needing a break from the Shetland wool, I started spinning some Lorna Laces Shepherd Wool top superwash merino from my blog friend, using the fractal method. I'll write more about this at a later time, assuming it works as expected.
Weaving: Now that my calendar is REALLY clear, I have been able to devote some time to the online weaving class I am enrolled in.

I bit the bullet and purchased a (kind of pricey) Mirrix loom. Actually, I bought the kit that goes with the class I am taking. I am really glad I spent the money - I didn't realize how much I have struggled with weaving because of inadequate tools. Yes, you can weave on looms cobbled together from wood scraps and nails or PVC pipe, but this loom has adjustable tension and a shedding mechanism, the cloth can be shifted like one does on an inkle loom so you have twice the area to weave, there are coils to hold the warp in place, etc. Oddly, of all my tapestry beaters, the fork (as in silverware) works best for the warp spacing I am using. I'm still going to invest in a few more tapestry-specific weaving tools. It's my way to help the economy.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Fiber interrupted

I was right - not much fiber activity took place during the installation of the laminate. The good news is the house looks really great with new flooring. The living room walls are now the color of chocolate milk ("Nearly Brown") while the master bedroom is *blue* ("Rest Assured"). The other rooms remained the same. I purchased a Bissell Crosswave which vacuums and mops at the same time, and can be used on hardwood, laminate, tile, and area rugs (product endorsement!) Even the Roomba works better on laminate, finishes in record time; since it is not sucking up carpet fiber with the dog hair, the bin doesn't need to be emptied over and over, either.

Knitting: I did manage to knit up several swatches for a possible sweater, but just could not achieve gauge. By the third try, I had lost my enthusiasm for that project, plus if the winters remain as mild as the past one, sweaters will not be needed anyway.

A fiber friend and I made a presentation to the weavers guild about natural dyeing. That took a bit of preparation to say the least. When I speak in front of an audience, I feel as though I am babbling and my mind blanks occasionally, but everyone seemed attentive and interested, asking good questions and contributing their experiences as well. I think it was successful.