Wisconsin Cousin

September 22, 2008


Okay, the navy merino scarf warp!   I’m going to show you a scarf per post, in the reverse of the order I wove them.  

This one was for my cousin who just moved to Wisconsin for school.  I know he likes scarves because he wrote a song with a scarf in it, and a scarf was part of his costume when he had a band.  It was such a pleasure making something I knew would be used, for someone whose taste I admire.

Scarf: Wisconsin Cousin

Warp: 28/2 Silk City merino, doubled

Ground weft: same, not doubled

Pattern Weft: Manos del Uruguay 70% merino 30% silk handspun single

Sett: 11 doubled epi in 8 dent reed

ppi: 23

Width in reed: 14 1/8″

Weaving width: 13″

Finished width: I can’t find my note!

Finished length not counting fringe: 55

Fringes: 2 1/4 on loom, tied when off loom with guided half hitches, or “gathering knots”

I call this pattern “Reinventing The Wheel.”  I wanted to weave the biggest overshot zig-zags possible on 8 shafts, with skips of no more than 6 threads (turned out to be 7), but I couldn’t find anything in a book.  So, I graphed out possible pattern picks for different point twill threadings, cut the graph paper in strips, and started rearranging the strips until I came up with something that satisfied me.  It was very slow.

Overshot was the structure that dealt best with a bunch of mutually exclusive aims I had for this project.  I’d bought some expensive Noro Kureyon at a knitting store because I loved the colorway.  (Now I know better than to walk into a knitting store thinking “I’ll just have a look around.”!) I wanted use this reproachful yarn as soon as I could, and I wanted Silk City 28/2 merino for the warp.  I also wanted the lightest, drapiest fabric possible, yet not gauzy.  And I wanted to have as much uninterrupted Noro as possible showing on both faces of the cloth, but I didn’t want a weft-dominant fabric.

Part of my solution was to double the warp in the heddles, which I’ve heard adds a bit of warp-dominant-like flexibility to a scarf or shawl.  I also sampled the tabby weft to get a balance between not too much bulky Noro, and not too much tabby breaking it up.  I tried single and doubled tabby; 1, 2, and 3 picks between each pattern pick.  I ended up using two piks of a single strand tabby between each pattern pick, for a total of about 23 ppi on this particular scarf.  The Manos del Uruguay is thinner than the Noro.

Unfinished cloth:

After cold hand wash:

The Manos del Uruguay still makes me cringe, considering the whole project was designed to expiate a yarn store sin.  When I came to start the last scarf I didn’t have anything left in my stash that would work for pattern weft, so back to the store I went!  Two skeins of Manos cost me $27.50 with tax.  Knitting stores make you crazy.  There’s 2/3 of a skein left, and it’s very nice yarn . . . but I wasn’t totally pleased with colors.  The navy really cooled all those warm blues and browns and golds I’d admired in the skein.

My cousin likes it, though.  He said–surprised–that it was just the sort of thing he would actually seek out to wear.  High praise!


Ee’s Just a *Wittle* Loom!

September 18, 2008

or, Take the Spear’s Weaving Challenge


Ha!  You were expecting me to come home with another great honking floor loom after this post, weren’t you?

No impulse buys.  Actually I was pretty methodical, as is my wont.  I’d looked at rigid heddle looms before I had the Bergman; last winter I started thinking about them again because I had this fantasy about how fun it would be to show up at my granny’s house with a warped loom a box of pretty yarns, since she’s not likely to travel to my place for a weaving vacation–possible for about $20 and a little ebay vigilance.

I adore rölakan, but it had never occurred to me I might actually find the motivation for some experiments in that direction myself until I considered a separate 2 shaft loom.  I took Betty Davenport’s book out of the library to make sure I wouldn’t be wasting my time using a rigid heddle loom for tapestry.  Her mat with the Brooks Boquet sent me back to the articles about manipulated lace weaves in some of my old (really old) magazines.  My initial reaction to them had been, “Huh.  That’s a labor-intensive way to get ugly lace.”  Through rigid heddle colored glasses they began to look really interesting.

A lot of cheap rigid heddle looms find their way onto ebay.  Of the four brands that look passably functional, Spears seemed the least toylike.  I think I spent more like $30 than $20, but it was still a great deal, if for nothing more than the fact that it came in it’s pristine 1956 box.

With all the trimmings.

And had never been used!


I could try. . .

I could try. . .

I got it in June when I still busy with the merino scarf warp, so I didn’t do anything with it.  While I was nursing my treadlefoot, I decided to take this as a challenge:

3 hours!  Never!

First I hunted out some of that Yarn Relatives Give Me–mystery handspun I thought might be silk.  I did burn tests, but I still couldn’t tell much more than that it wasn’t synthetic, which was good enough for me.  I tried it to see if it would go through the heddle eyes, and it did, so I wound a warp the fastest way I could think of.

This actually worked!  I felt pretty clever to think of it.  I guess it says something about my warping reel that I would rather use an ironing board for a short warp.

56″ warp wound: 23 minutes


And here I am ready to beam:

Warp through slots, attached to back beam and beamed on: 30 more minutes

Heddle Eyes threaded: 20 more minutes

Tied on and ready to weave: 30 more minutes

Total: 1 hour 43 minutes

This is where I had to stop counting.  I could have spent eternity trying to weave this warp, which I’m now pretty sure was just a shiny, malevolent cotton.  It beamed through the 9-10 epi heddle all right, but when I started trying to weave it I could see that the journey had turned it to sticky lint.  There was not even the suggestion of a shed.  Furthermore the slubs would not go through the heddle eyes without catching and pulling.  Yes, they fit, but I would have to tug on each individual thread when I advanced the warp.

After watching this whole process on a Sunday afternoon, Der Mann was full of horrified sympathy when I told him I would have to discard the warp.  His reaction surprised me, because after the kinds of re-do’s and problems I’m used to on my countermarche, 3 hours (if you count the time I spent moving stuff, stash diving, burning things, and taking breaks) and a little crap yarn wasted was no big deal.  I just thought of it as cheap tuition for an important lesson: namely, that the yarn doesn’t just have to go through the heddle eyes, it has to glide through the heddle eyes.  I guess this is the kind of thing that makes weavers look patient to the point of insanity to non-weavers.  (Which is how knitters look to me.)

A few days later I re-warped the rigid heddle loom with wool and started weaving a scarf.  I also took the navy merino of the regular loom last weekend.  Very gingerly treadling got me to the end of the warp without aggravating my back.  After considering Jane’s comment, I think part of the problem may have been the placement of my tabby treadles, which is something I can change for my next project.  One scarf is already in the mail to my cousin!  I’ve got a lot of fringe to tie on the others.

Wool and Fiction

September 10, 2008

Here’s this:




Aaaand I recently discovered something.  About wool.

It’s warm.

Before you laugh, a couple of weeks ago I added a cotton-stuffed quilt to the cotton waffle weave blanket on our bed to compensate for the cooler nights.  Der Mann and I use different combinations of cotton blankets through the summer months, and cotton blankets under a light down comforter that we can pull up or shuck as needed in winter.  Well, we were starting to get a little chilly again, so when I did the wash I put away the old bedding and took out one of two super-cheap wool blankets I bought at IKEA with the intention of sewing myself a coat.  They are periwinkle on one side and ice blue on the other, warp-faced and weft-faced alternately, brushed to a nice loft; but the ice blue looks really terrible with my skin, and the whole point was to make a reversible coat with a contrasting collar.

“Okay, so they’re blankets after all.  That way I don’t have to feel guilty about hoarding fabric for a coat I’m never going to make.”  I put an IKEA blanket on the bed and covered it with a cotton spread.

That night we roasted!  I pushed off the bedspread.  We still roasted!  Under one wool blanket, after getting cold under a cotton blanket and a quilt!

This amazed me even though I know all about the insulating properties of wool: retains heat even when wet, etc, etc.  Part of my amazement comes from the fact I have worn wool coats all my adult life.  The wind blows up the sleeves and down the collar and up the hem, so it takes careful layering and tucking to stay warm.  Maybe they key is that a wool blanket does a better job of keeping a person warm than a wool coat, just like a mitten does a better job of keeping your hand warm than a glove.

I kept thinking about this because it tied in to something that bothers me in fiction.  I’ve always found it embarrassingly naive on the part of the author when characters charge off into the Northern European landscape with nothing but a small pack and either a wool cloak or blanket to sleep under.  Any novelist using her head ought to know that her characters could die of hypothermia that way, or at the very least be so miserably uncomfortable and sleep-deprived that it would make it’s way into the descriptions or dialogue.  Tolkien made the concession of elf cloaks.

I felt sorriest for the characters in the book The King’s Peace, by Jo Walton, an unromantic portrayal of Arthurian Britain.  The book straddles the line between historical and fantasy fiction, but Walton’s style is so concrete and reportive–nary a whiff of anachronism–that I expected better.  Her main character is a dignified female warrior in Arturius’ (Artos’?) army, and of course nobody in is having much fun (what with it being the last stand of a civilization against the dark ages and all), but their kits and sleeping arrangements got mentioned a lot, and nothing about the fact that everyone was freezing all the time.

The euphemism the soldiers used for pairing up was “sharing blankets,” which they did.  I supposed the extra body heat would help a little.  Also getting out of the wind and piling dried vegetation to get you off the ground, but you can’t always do that on campaign.  As I read I pictured the misery of cold added to the misery of everything else.  I’ve been to places like the ones where the characters were bedding down.  I’ve tried sleeping in summer-weight sleeping bag there.

But after my recent wool blanket experience, I think maybe it wasn’t all that bad.  My sleeping bag had a synthetic filling, whereas a good thick wool blanket or cloak you could roll up in might actually keep you pretty warm if you slept in your clothes.  Maybe all those characters aren’t being passed off as larger than life, with either a furnace-like metabolism or a heroic imperviousness to cold.  Does this mean I have to stop feeling sorry for people in history too?  The Roman foot-soldiers with paltry bedrolls strapped to their 60-80 lb packs?  The Highlanders whose entire outfits consisted of wool yardage?  It opens whole vistas.*

I didn’t like The King’s Peace enough to finish the trilogy.  The plot meandered like the politics.  Walton’s reserved style and fondness for logistics meant that while she gave a lot of information about a lot of different people, I never really got a feel for what it was like for them inside their skins.  I read her later books and found them much better.  Her super-consistent imagination lends itself well to audacious projects.  All through Tooth and Claw I kept thinking, “My gosh she’s pulling this off.  HOW is she doing this?  WHY is she doing this?”  Tooth and Claw is a pitch-perfect regency novel set in a society of dragons.

Walton also writes alternate history novels that take place in the fifties during the protracted reign of the Third Reich, after the English have made peace with Hitler in order to prevent the invasion.  Farthing and Ha’penny are both riffs on the detective novel–a genre that bores me–but they are so well conceived, and come at such interesting moral and social issues from such interesting angles, I eat them up.  Especially Ha’penny: a weakness for theater history is a hangover from my teens.

I’m thinking I should go back to her Arthurian trilogy and see if I like it now.  Fall makes me questy, and I’ve been having trouble finding good fiction.  I’m not in the mood for classics.  I’ve exhausted the work of all the modern authors I seek out, so it’s a matter waiting for them to write more, or finding new ones.  My best method of finding new fantasy authors used to be the informational sections of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies (great for lovers of literary interstitial fiction), but my current library system doesn’t buy them.

Read anything character-driven, literate, and emotionally complex lately?  With magic?

I know, I know.


*  Fortunately I can still pity the Japanese who, through a thousand years of sophisticated culture, living in essentially unheated houses, never imported wool or raised livestock for fiber!  Not everyone could afford silk.  Whenever I watch anime or a film set in feudal Japan, I imagine myself in a permanent crouch over the hibachi, pulling on a fifth or sixth cotton kimono.

Treadlefoot Revisited

September 4, 2008

There’s not much point in posting to say, “Gee, I’ve been doing other stuff, so I haven’t been writing blog entries.”  It’s kind of a given, and I notice I’m not the only one this time of year.

Nevertheless, that’s what I’m doing.  Lots has been going on, but not much weaving.  I scared myself with an episode of SI joint pain, the which (although I have a lifetime of Back Issues due to a slight difference in leg length due to a childhood accident) I had never experienced.  I’m so attuned to the things my back does, a New Kind of Pain is a big deal for me.  This electric stabbing simply appeared out of nowhere while I was standing at the sink washing the dishes.  I wracked my brains for what might have caused it.  Yoga?  But I am e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y careful at yoga, because of said Back Issues, and always very clear about when I have overstepped.  Anyway, when the pain started, I hadn’t been to yoga for nearly a week.

“Yesterday I wove for quite a while. . .” said I.   “No!  Surely not that!”

The pain is subtle in its comings and goings since the SI (sacroiliac) joint is a big, mostly static joint in the back of the pelvis.  One of the signs can be pain while climbing stairs, and I had that.  My chiropractor diagnosed it.  The SI pain is better, but overall I am not feeling that great because the three visits to the chiropractor it took for a SI-relieving adjustment to “take” telescoped a lot of muscle tension to the parts of my back that are prone to trouble me.  I’m still not totally convinced it was the weaving, although yes, the motions of treadling (and the the kind of tension you keep in your leg and hip while you’re doing it) much resemble the motions of climbing stairs.  At any rate, I thought it was better to give my loom a rest while I was getting the SI thing taken care of.

Has anyone else had SI joint pain that was either caused or exacerbated by weaving?  If so, I’d really like to hear how that went for you, and what helped!

I am so close to being finished with the last scarf, it’s ridiculous.  All three scarves are still on the cloth beam, which is why I haven’t showed any of the others yet.  I meant to wet finish the first for a sample, and re-tie for the others, but then I rethought my warp calculations and decided I couldn’t spare the thread to tie-on and weave another header.  I feel that strongly about generous scarves.  I did slack the web all the way and scrunch it around to get a feel for it, and I think it is what it ought to be, pre finishing; and I did sample my wefts at the end of my previous warp, which had the same sett and tie-up, so I am not entirely reckless.

I also cut out An Apron I Invented and bought the bias tape to finish it.  Which I now must do because I’ve told you about it.  It’s been ages since I finished something with double fold bias tape, and I don’t remember it being a barrel of laughs.  (I was probably fifteen, and come to think of it, it was probably an apron.)  Thank you in advance for the accountability.