All Hail

December 31, 2009

First, the final Merino Scarf/Hat Trade Report: nothing to report. Feeling a bit like the Little Red Hen, I got online and ordered a boughten merino wool hat from Sierra Trading Post.

We got our first snow a few days ago: one afternoon and evening’s worth, which were enough to snarl the commute through the whole region.  Nevertheless, people tend to accept it in a festival spirit because it is rare. Der Mann and I took a walk while it was still falling. Children had been let out to play in the dark, and there was a pack of giddy, roaming teenagers. A family was sledding on the street by the school; they’d built a jump. A woman took pictures of her snow-covered Christmas lights.  The town’s brand new plow (and first ever; it had pride of place in the 4th of July Parade) zoomed up and down Main Street removing 2 of the total 3 inches of snowfall, all of which were expect to melt by morning.

We walked past a couple of little girls messing around in their front yard, chanting in a mesmeric monotone, “All hail the snow. All hail the snow.” I was about to obey them with a “hail” when they snarked at us to get out of the street. Little twits. It made us laugh.

People who hate freezing weather move here on purpose to escape it, while I am one of those crazies who really likes snow. REALLY likes snow. Clearly, I am wasted here. Dark skies–preferably with white stuff falling out of them–irrationally lift my mood, the way some people perk up when it’s sunny. I joke that I have reverse seasonal affective disorder. I don’t even mind it lying on the ground for months. Not even when I have to shovel. Not even when I lived in New England.

I also like gardening where I can grow peaches and fig trees and camellias, which would be a bit of a problem if I got as much snow as I wanted.

Here is the last Great Granny yarn scarf, finished sometime around the start of December. It is for my English professor half-sister. I still can’t think “English professor” when I picture her, but that is what she is–albeit a very young one with a preternatural talent for getting good haircuts.

Scarf: All Hail the Snow

Plain weave on rigid heddle loom

22/2 cyan Silk City merino, doubled
burgundy worsted knitting wool from Great Granny’s stash
cadet blue worsted from (I think) Great Granny’s stash
heathered scarlet wool, maybe a 16/2, doubled (used it for overshot in my first weaving class)
fat natural wool flamé with regularly spaced slubs

Weft: 22/2 cyan Silk City merino, not doubled

Ends: 77

Heddle: 9-and-a-bit dpi

Picks per inch: 9

Width in reed: 9 1/2″

Length on loom: 70 1/4″

Woven width: 7 5/8″

Woven length: 66 3/4″

Finished width: 6 1/4″

Finished length: 62 1/2″

Finishing: Warm hand wash with chafing and agitation, 10 minute soak, dried flat.

Fringes hemstitched in bundles of four.

Conclusions: Sides a little wavy due to different shrinkage of cadet blue worsted. This is my favorite scarf of the four I made this year. I like the warp shots of textured yarn, which give me a lot of ideas, and the formal symmetry of the stripes.

On the other hand I am sick of scarves. I’m very ready for something else. Impediments? I don’t yet have a working non-rigid-heddle loom I can use without hurting myself (though I’m in the process of revamping one), and there may not be many more projects left in me before spring. I’m perpetually aware of the house reno nightmare waiting in the wings, ready to take center stage as the season changes. I should be ordering seed already, if I want to get my indoor starts going in time, to fill the bare dirt as soon as possible, to keep the yard from simultaneously washing away and being overtaken by weeds.

Anything could happen, though.

I’m not one to mark changes according to the calendar, but I haven’t often been as glad to see the back of one year and the front of the next.

All Hail the Snow! All Hail Two Thousand Ten! Twelve years ago today I was on a street in Edinburgh in a crowd so dense I could barely move, getting my butt pinched by strangers–nice enough in its way but you really only need to do it once. Tonight I will make pizza and watch anime with my favorite person in the world and our cat.


The Ugly Muscovy Scarf

December 23, 2009

By the way you can still trade me a hat for this scarf by leaving me a comment and e-mailing a picture of the hat.

I guess nobody has unwanted merino wool hats just lying around! It also occurs to me that I chose the wrong time of year. I forget how busy people who are putting together family celebrations are this week, as opposed to childless holiday slackers like us.

Which brings me to the scarf / stole I told you about back in November, which I am calling the Ugly Muscovy. Last week it was mailed, received, unwrapped, and much appreciated by its recipient. And that was my last Christmas package, so I’m done!

“Muscovy” doesn’t refer to the region in Russia, which isn’t ugly at all, but to the name of a kind of duck originating in South America. We never had Muscovies when we were raising our own ducks, though we often visited some at a local homestead park. After moving we noticed a pair of them in a neighbor’s yard in our new town. Muscovies are a popular low-care breed for small gardens, as they are great slug-eaters and (unlike most ducks) have a fighting chance against predators, since they roost to sleep. In terms of scientific classification they are actually more closely related to geese than to ducks. Maybe that’s why I never wanted any–they didn’t charm me with their dauntless incompetence the way our Indian runners did. (Also, Der Mann thinks the bubbly red caruncles on the males’ bills are cute. I do not!)

I named the scarf for the inlay: it is a common motif on South and Central American folk textiles. Probably only duck fancier would notice, but this motif isn’t just a fantastical “bird,” it has the shape of a Muscovy duck! I found it graphed out by M. M. Atwater in this July 1936 issue of The Weaver, in an article about loom-controlled leno featuring a Guatemalan huipil–she spells it “hupel.”

I have a small stack of these wonderful magazines. They belonged to the original owner of my loom, and after my shuttles and my antique swift from Sweden, they are my greatest weaving treasures.

The inlay was my favorite part of this project. I thought it would be tiresome. I’m going to have to try some more; I have an idea for a different way to use the inlay circles. I wasn’t as pleased with the Danish medallions, which I learned to do using Robyn Spady’s February 2008 article in WeaveZine. They don’t seem a very stable decoration when you are making them on this scale. For a little color and some textural interest in a fine linen, I can see them being very nice.

Scarf / Stole: Ugly Muscovy

Plain weave on rigid heddle loom with inlay and Danish medallions

Warp: German worsted weight superwash wool.

Weft: multicolored mystery wool, don’t know the name for this kind of yarn where the bulk is wrapped loosely around the core yarn like a telephone cord, without the extra twist forming loops as in bouclé. Do you know it?

Inlay and medallions: fat natural wool flammé with regularly spaced slubs.

Ends: forgot to count ends or measure width in reed!

Heddle: 9-and-a-bit dpi

Ends per inch: about 4 5/8.  I skipped every other hole-slot pair.  First time I’ve done this, and it worked fine with the puffy yarn.

Picks per inch: 4.

Length on loom: 85″ excluding fringe

Woven width: 14″

Woven length: 77″

Finished width: 12 3/8″

Finished length: 74 1/2″

Finishing: Machine wash warm, tumble dry warm.

Conclusions: I wouldn’t call this scarf the ugly duckling that becomes a swan, but I wasn’t ashamed to give it as a gift after all, mostly because I really enjoyed having woven something figured. As much as I love repeating patterns and stripes, there is something about little pictures that pleases me.  The clothes I remember from childhood are the ones with little pictures or applique.

The superwash was educational. If I ever use it for warp again, I’ll have to remember to run a line of machine stitching along the fringe to keep the the cut ends of the yarn from unraveling. (And wear a dust mask.) Its non-shrinking, non-felting characteristics were not useful here, but could be useful combined with regular wool for a differential shrinkage effect.

Keeping Up Appearances

December 21, 2009

I just had to tell the world I darned four wool socks this morning.  You can’t see the darns in the picture very well, but they are extensive. I should have done them in contrasting yarn to show off. Next to setting sleeves, darning is my least favorite kind of sewing. I learned how by watching my Granny do it. She uses an old white glass doorknob. I used a small rounded drinking glass.

The socks had been waiting in my sewing basket for 3 years. I wouldn’t have bothered but they are Rohners, and would have had a lot of wear left if I didn’t have these stupid high-domed toenails that saw through socks like dull penknives no matter how short I cut them.

More information than you needed, right?

Then I cleaned my sewing basket. Out with all the fraying snips of fabric and yarn wrappers and crumbled dead leaves and stray buttons I was going to sew on and never did.

Altogether, it was more work than weaving a scarf!

Speaking of keeping your workbasket tidy, here is something fun.

I got a perfect score as a gentleman, but missed several as a lady–and I protest that the answers were phrased to mislead.  Reading Victorian novels is good for something after all.  Anyway, it was easier to be a man in the late 19th century than a woman.  Especially if you happened to be a Monty Pythonesque animated character in a computer game.

Parrot Tulip Scarf to Trade

December 16, 2009

Riddle me this: A merino wool scarf turns out prettily, and I love the colors, but the orangey gold looks bad on me. I don’t need a scarf, but I do need a hat. I can weave, but I can’t knit. I hate to shop.

I would like to make a trade. I’ve never tried anything like this before, but here’s how it will go: If you want this scarf, (which I warn you is quite lightweight, small, and fringey–see specs and measurements below), and have a merino wool hat you would like to trade for it, send a picture of the hat, along with your mailing address (so I can send you a thank-you for participating) any time before December 29th. I’m waiting till after Christmas to complete the trade so that you can include any unwanted gift hats. And tell your knitting friends.

My head is largeish. The hat can be old or new. It can be a machine-made as long as it doesn’t have a polar fleece lining. I’m asking for merino wool just because I am one of those people who, while not allergic to wool, has ridiculously sensitive skin. Any other itchless animal fiber would be fine, or a combination of animal and vegetable.

Being a person of stark red-and-white complexion, I’ll choose the hat that takes the scarf by the completely completely arbitrary qualification that it’s least likely to make me look like a radish! So if you don’t get the scarf, it’s not because I don’t love your hat and it isn’t gorgeous.

If you would like to make a trade, leave me a comment (including your e-mail address on the e-mail line where it will be hidden) and say so.  I’ll e-mail back, then you can e-mail me the hat picture.

Scarf: Parrot Tulip

Plain weave on rigid heddle loom

Warp: Lace-weight (38 wpi) coral Australian Country Spinners merino wool yarn with 10% nylon, doubled in heddles; Japanese hand-spun hand-dyed merino knitting yarn, single ply.

Weft: Lace-weight coral merino wool

Ends: 77

Heddle: 9-and-a-bit dpi

Picks per inch: 5?

Width in reed: 7 7/8″

Woven length (excluding fringes): 54″

Woven width: 6 7/8″

Finished length (excluding fringes): 46 1/4″

Finished length with fringe: 59″

Finished Width 6″

Fringes: twisted in groups of four ends with crossover to retain weft, secured with overhand knot.

Finishing: luke-warm hand wash with 10 min soak and some agitation. Two rinses, dried flat.


I used this handspun from Japan for an earlier project and loved it then, too. I’m going to have to go back to ebay and see if anyone is still importing it. It’s a self-striping yarn intended for knitting feltable hats and such, so the color segments blend into one another slowly and are quite long–long enough to cut up and arrange for my own color repetitions and stripe widths.

I need to buy a fringe twister. It was kind of fun, but I stood at the counter for close to two hours twisting these by hand.

Sadly (happily?), I can no longer say my house is a pet-free environment. Though I make sure my velvet friend stays away from the yarn and the loom, he has a way of getting in front of the camera. (He’s not a very allergenic cat. My cat-allergic husband can rub his face in his Howl’s fur with no trouble, but if you have a severe allergy, you’d better pass on the scarf.)


December 7, 2009

I finally got some pictures, so here’s the first scarf I wove in November; not the ugly one.

Scrapple involves cornmeal and organ meat and is not something I’ve actully eaten. I would if it came my way. In my family the term is “hash,” but the principle is the same. Hash is a catch-all word for a fry up involving chopped leftover meat, potatoes or hominy, maybe an onion, and whatever is in the fridge that would not make it too unappetizing. If you’ve got corned beef, that elevates the meal to “Corned Beef Hash.” Otherwise: Ham, Pot Roast, crumbled up leftover hamburger patties. Turkey run through the grinder. Homemade chili sauce and cabbage relish are the proper condiments. No, we do not break an egg over our hash. That would be a waste of an egg!

Since this is one of the last two scarves I managed to squeeze from the scraps of Great Granny’s small stash of wool, and it is meaty colors, scrapple seemed like the name for it.

Scarf: Scrapple

Plain weave on rigid heddle loom

Warp: old knitting wool of various sizes, wound on upside-down ironing board legs one notch back from narrowest setting, then cut (therefore doubled in length.)

From Great Granny’s stash:
pale eraser pink baby yarn
burgundy worsted

From thrift store:
rust DK weight
scarlet baby yarn

Weft: antique weaving wool–very fine, springy hot pink–about 20/2

Ends: 99

Heddle: 9-and-a-bit epi

Picks per inch: about 7

Length on loom: 62 1/2″ excluding fringe

Width in reed: 10 7/8″

Woven length: 56″ (w/o fringe)

Woven width: 9 3/8″

Finished length: 51 5/8″ (w/o fringe)

Finished width: 8 1/2″

Fringes: hemstitched in bundles of four, trimmed to 2″

Conclusions: I wound off all the yarn then composed the stripes by rearranging the separate threads around in the grooves of my rigid heddle loom’s cloth and warp beam until I got something that had some definition and broke up the burgundy sufficiently. This method worked pretty well.

To separate the warp, I used flimsy beige wrapping paper which I had taped together into one long roll. It got slightly crooked. Cumulative effect was enough to stretch one side of warp noticeably. Need some beaming sticks or better paper–possibly shorter sheets.

This scarf is for one of my half-sisters. I don’t know if she makes hashes. I’ll have to ask her. Our mom was more into casseroles than skillet meals; hash was something we ate at granny’s house. Der Mann and I see it as a treat because we don’t usually cook big enough pieces of meat to have leftovers.

Weaving with Superwash

December 4, 2009

The reason I haven’t continued with my to-be-continued band weaving post is that I am waiting on photographs. The way I sit to use my home made heddle involves me, a chair, the newel post, my right knee, my left thigh, and several hands–but I make do with two. I would need a fourth to hold the camera. I could ask Der Mann to take a picture of me, but it is dark when he comes home, and he will make me look fat, and anyway, there isn’t enough daylight in the house in winter, even when the sun is out.

Excuses, excuses! Mostly I just hate taking pictures. I have made three scarves on the rigid heddle loom in the last month and there are no pictures of those either.

Here is a preview of the most recent:

It is ugly. The only way to describe it is “clueless in 1982.”  This is the first thing I’ve woven that I simply thought: Yuck!

Ugly begins with good intentions. I received some nice superwash wool, enough for a scarf of generous proportions.  It is a beigey pink. For weft, I looked in a sack of some other gift yarn and found that it paired well with a skein of mystery natural fiber yarn in silvery white, a little pale primrose, and earthy tints. I had not been able to find anything else to go with it, so I was quite pleased.

By the time I saw that I was making an ugly scarf out of pretty yarns, it was too late to change wefts and still get the length I wanted. I decided to think of it as a chance to practice Danish medallions and inlay.  I hoped that after wet finishing it would not look so bad.

This was my first experience superwash wool. I thought it would just shrink less than normal wool. I put it through a warm handwash cycle in the machine, with an extra warm rinse. No shrinkage. Damp-dry in cool dryer. Nothing. Low heat dryer for 10 minutes. Nothing. Another 15 minutes and it did plump up a little, getting springy without actually shrinking. Planning for warp shrinkage, I had woven way too few picks per inch.

There’s more. Last night I began having horrible allergic nose runnings and itchings and hackings and sneezings that I finally traced to the scarf. Wool doesn’t bother me, nor any other animal fiber. Here’s what I think happened: when I heated the scarf in the dryer, and cleaned out the lint trap–and afterwards handled it quite a bit–I simultaneously activated whatever was used to treat the yarn and released bits of superwash fluff into the air. It happens every time I go back to it, too, though not quite as severely.

Is that totally weird? Is anyone else allergic to machine washable wool yarn? The treatment process uses chlorine compounds and/or plastic resins which are non-toxic in the finished yarn. It is even a hypoallergenic alternative for many people with wool allergies. I would suspect the mystery yarn, but messing with the superwash fringe is what really seems to get to me. (I am messing with it quite a lot because the plies of superwash yarn don’t grip one another, and I am having to re-ply a bunch of yarn that came untwisted in the wash.)

Der Mann likes the scarf. He called it “substantial.” I threatened to make him wear it. Now I am trying to decide whether to give it to a relative who who can’t tell the difference between knitting and weaving–and would like it simply because I made it–or whether that is too much of a dig to my pride. It’s silly, but I have this picture of people telling her with a fixed smile, “Oh. My. Isn’t that . . . substantial. She must be a very . . . creative young lady.”–mentally adding twenty years to my age. What do you think? Have you ever made a gift of a project you thought was ugly?