Thursday, June 28, 2018

Copacabana socks

This blog started as a knitting blog, but it seems like I don't do much knitting anymore. So much fiber, so few hours in the day! I still like to knit socks, though, plus some of the older pairs are wearing out and must be replaced.

Pattern: Short row toe and heel basic sock, by Wendy D. Johnson
Yarn: Simply Socks Yarn Company Poste Yarn Striping, in 'Copacabana', and Simply Sock, in 'Black'
Needles: US1
Modifications: None to speak of except as noted below

As an experiment, I tried not picking up the wraps on the short row heels. This worked perfectly fine EXCEPT for the last stitches on each side. Not picking up those wraps resulted in the Dreaded Sock Heel Gap (DSHG). I backtracked and picked those wraps up and all was well.

I like to listen to books on CD while I knit and finished Ron Chernow's Grant at the same time I finished these socks. I enjoyed Hamilton, but I guess I find the birthing of a nation more interesting than the preservation of a nation. Also, I can't figure out if I should be disheartened or encouraged that democracy has always been a very messy thing. So far, the USA has survived. We'll see what the future brings.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

My first rag rug

I bought a duvet cover at Target that I really didn't care for. When I replaced it, I noticed that it was 100% cotton. So instead of putting it in the Goodwill bag, I ripped it up for weaving. I expected to end up with a bunch of loops because a duvet cover is basically a big pillowcase. Turns out it was woven in a spiral, like socks. I ended up with over 200 yards of continuous cloth.

Pattern: based on the Fabric Stash Rag Run, in Handwoven Home, by Liz Gipson
Warp: 8/4 cotton warp, in 'Navy' and 'Kentucky Red'
Weft: cotton fabric
EPI/PPI: 7.5 and 4
Finished size: 44" x 21"

I really struggled getting this warped and actually started completely over once. The kraft paper I usually use when winding onto the back beam kept shifting and crinkling, so I sliced up some poster board to create slats. That made a HUGE difference. In fact, this warp turned out to be one of the best I have ever done. Also, when attaching the warp to the front beam, I kept the heddle in the up position; this helped maintain a decent shed even as the cloth built up in front.

This is my first rag rug, so I wasn't sure how to best do the selvages. I weighted the end warp threads, but I also ran a floating weft on each edge, to use as a visual reminder. Then I left a bit of a loop at each side, so the edges look frilly. I also discovered that my swords were not long enough for such a wide project - for a 24" wide weft, one needs a 30" sword, or there is nothing to hold onto - so I used a beater, which was slow but effective.

Per usual, I started weaving with some scrap yarn, to spread the warp. I wish I had ended the same way, as the fabric didn't hold the beat when I took the rug off the loom. I ended up sacrificing about an inch of weaving in order to have a tidy edge at that end. The fringe is "two rows of staggered overhand knots worked in groups of four warp threads" per the pattern.

This rug is for my master bath, and I was aiming for 48" x 23". Between losing some length during the fringe-making and losing both length and width in the washer/dryer, it ended up 44" x 21", plus fringe.

My satisfaction with the colors varied during the project. I liked the navy and red warp, but when adding the light blue fabric, I wished I had used white or yellow instead of red. But once done, I decided it is fine; the fringe helps. Unfortunately, these pics don't do the rug justice.

This project was a test, to see if I like making rugs. I do! But I will purchase a longer sword. I have been contemplating getting a wider loom, a 32" Ashford, plus their Freedom Roller, but I am going to hold off for now. For one thing, where would I put it? For another, I'm a little concerned about weaving that width because of my ancient shoulders. Meanwhile, I have plenty of projects to work on.

Monday, June 18, 2018

A fiber weekend

Saturday, Sunday, and today it has been too hot to do anything outside. Short dog walks, no trips to the dog park, no gardening or yard work, one trip to the grocery store for vittles - that has been the extent of it. Sounds like a good excuse to play with fiber!

I recently saw a short video about an artist (whose name I of course cannot remember). Her philosophy toward making art is "you have to begin". The video showed her entering her studio to work and warming up by "playing" with some paint. At the time, I didn't know how to translate that to making fiber art, but now I do: spinning.

There is a large plastic tub full of roving in the closet in the spare bedroom. I found myself putting off spinning any of it until I became a better spinner. One day I realized I would not become a better spinner unless I spun, and it would be easier to improve my spinning if I spun good fiber. So now I am working with this lovely BFL.

My recent spinning has been over twisted, but I didn't know why. There is a clock that ticks in my studio, so I have been using it as a metronome, to try to slow down my feet and speed up my hands while spinning. I have to watch my feet while doing this, but fortunately my hands are in the same line of sight, so it works fairly well. I am pleased with the results.

After warming up with 20 minutes of spinning, I turn to weaving. I truly admire and envy those who can warp with ease; I am not one of them. It took me many days (and much swearing and not a few tears) to get the loom warped to my satisfaction for this rag rug. It is the first project in a series using up material from a duvet I "deconstructed".

Saturday I was going to intersperse some housework with weaving, but once the warp was ready, I just had to reward myself with a bunch of weaving. Sunday I wove some more, while waiting on yarn to mordant. I always try to leave a weaving project in such a state that I can just sit down and do it for a while, with no preliminaries. This keeps me eager to return to the loom.

Sunday is usually "date day" with my SO, but he was going over to his daughter's house for Father's Day burgers. I opted out, as I felt the need for some alone time. And what a great opportunity to finish mordanting the rest of the blank yarn! I thought I had sock yarn to work with, but instead it was ten mini-skeins of Cascade 220 and one of Lamb's Pride. I don't recall why I made such small skeins - probably thinking I was going to sample dye, which is probably what I will do with them.

I figured out what the rhubarb-leaf-mordanted yarn smells like: chicken noodle soup.

To top it all off, I also spent an hour or so knitting socks. No pic, but I am almost done with them. I am also almost done with listening to Ron Chernow's Grant while knitting. It's been a long slog for both of them.

Now back to "real" life.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mordanting with rhubarb leaves

Last summer I transplanted the rhubarb, using the roots to dye with. This summer I didn't expect to harvest any rhubarb, figuring it would need a season to settle into its new home. Au contraire. It is doing quite well, so I not only harvest leaves to dye with, I made a pie as well.

I had this funny idea that I could dye all the remaining blanks that I have on hand. The only problem with that goal was I didn't have a pot large enough for all the yarn. So first up was the Cascade 220 worsted.

I didn't take a bunch of photos of the process because it's not different than other attempts to mordant and/or dye naturally: soak yarn, simmer dye material, simmer yarn in dye bath, etc. Since rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, they mordant yarn, but also change the color of the yarn, which can affect subsequent attempts at dyeing. The only differences I noted in the instructions for mordanting vs. dyeing with rhubarb leaves were the ratio of leaves to yarn and the length of time the yarn sits in the bath. I can't quite recall, but I think I used a 1:1 ratio. I do remember that I let the yarn sit overnight in the dye bath, primarily because I had other things to do.

Just for fun, I took pictures with both a white background and a blue background. The actual color of the yarn is more accurate with the blue background.

While the leaves were simmering, they smelled like rhubarb, but later the dye bath took on a peculiar odor that was not very pleasant. Not horrible, but just odd. Sometime soon I will repeat this process with some sock yarn blanks, maybe even tomorrow because it is going to be too hot to be outside.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Mostly Audrey and Duncan

At a recent spin-in, a woman (a familiar face but whose name I forget) greeted me with "I know how I know you!" Many years ago I purchased some roving from her at the Jay County Fiber Fest. Oddly enough, I had recently spun that roving up. It was very nice for being no-particular-breed plus a little alpaca.

These pix do not do it justice. It is a lovely chocolate color.

At Ply Away, one instructor insisted the only way to set the twist in homespun yarn is with steam. I gave that a try at home, but it just wasn't working for me. The old soak-it-for-twenty-minutes method at least lets me do something else while it is working. I will try steam again sometime, though.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Not towels

This is a long story of how some towels turned into first a shawl and now maybe a dresser scarf. Somewhere in there I contemplated a beach cover-up for my granddaughter, but figured she either would not wear it or would wear it once before outgrowing it.

But first, the original details:

Pattern: Dealers Choice towels, from Weaving Made Easy, by Liz Gipson
Warp: Lion Brand Kitchen Cotton, 147 "Grape", 108 'Blue Ice', and 148 'Tropic Breeze'
Weft: Cotton Clouds Aurora Earth 8/2, either 56 'Light Turk' or 47 'Copen Blue' (can't recall which I used)
EPI/PPI: 7.5 and 9
Loom: Ashford rigid heddle, 24"
Modifications: None really except in intent

Being a neophyte, I struggled with warping this pattern because the grape yarn had an odd number of threads, something I had not encountered before. I came up with a really convoluted method of warping the loom, detailed in my Ravelry entry. I'm not sure I could follow those directions a second time; instead I would just direct warp the whole thing.

The other feature that threw me off was the near-balanced weave despite the warp being much heavier than the weft. The fabric seemed too airy, but after a trip through the washer and dryer, it closed up nicely (and shrank - more on that later).

A third problem, and this is a perennial one for me, was keeping a taut tension on the warp threads. They really got wonky, and so did I as I developed weird ways to add weights to the errant threads.

Nevertheless, I persisted. However, I forgot to pay attention to where I should insert dividers in order to make two towels, so I just wove it in one piece. And then the warp became so wonky, I just stopped. Not sure what to do with the resulting fabric, I hung it in the closet.

A few weeks ago, while watching "RBG" at our local indie film theater, I noticed RBG frequently wears one of many elegant wraps. As I was freezing from the arctic AC, I decided I needed a wrap. Since my idea of dressing up is exchanging a tee shirt for a polo shirt, it needed to be more casual than RBG's. While musing on just how I would weave such a thing, it occurred to me I already had some cloth that was perfect.

I didn't know how to hemstitch when I started this project, but I managed to accomplish this after the fact. I ran the now shawl through the washer and dryer and was pleased with the resulting fabric. But alas, the amount of shrinkage left it a bit short for a wrap, at least for me, even with the long fringe. (Final size is 47" x 12" without the fringe.)

So now what should it be? A dresser scarf? A summer scarf? A longish but kind of narrow towel? Any suggestions?