After rya yarn, I decided to try locker hooking with Finnish poppana.  I love this stuff and am still trying to figure out the best use for it.  Poppana is a continuous strip of colorfast cotton bias tape wound onto a spool, and so has the pleasing property of developing a furry edge rather than raveling in the wash.

I graphed a pattern for a trivet (6” x 8 1/8” when finished) with eight sides (corners are less acute this way, and easier to cover when whip-stitching the turned edges), hooked it, washed it, dried it.

Hi, trivet recipient!

Here’s the back:

to prove I stitched in my ends

Poppana gets softer the more you wash it, but I wanted this to be soft right away; I pulled it through a steel knitting-needle gauge as I worked to distress the edges and rubbed them when I gave it a hot hand wash followed by a tumble dry.  The locking yarn is the same dark beige Finnish “Linnea Novita” 4 ply 60% linen, 40% cotton I used for the last trivet, about 13 wraps per inch.

Poppana folds over on itself when pulled through the 5 mesh canvas but still seems to cover the locking yarn pretty well.  I’d locker hook again with poppana, especially if I can find a soft, open linen canvas with 6 or 7 squares to the inch and a skinnier locker hook.

So, I’m not up for much.  But early this spring I bought some real locker-hook canvas–as opposed to my allergenic home-made version–because I had some large projects in mind. It is a stiff 50% cotton, 50% polyester blend leno, heavily starched to keep the mesh from shifting.

I chose the 5 mesh version (five holes to the inch) because it was the smallest I could find.  I have no interest in working with rags, and I can’t imagine using anything but wide rags with the more common 3.75 mesh canvas.  Even then the work would come out sparse and coarse.

My first project was a sample trivet.  I have two hulking rolls of late 1960’s / early 1970’s “Sellgren Ryer” yarn that came to me with my loom: beautifully spun Norwegian wool from same town as my favorite cathedral.  My sample was to tell me a) if I liked the two colorways together b) if the yarn made a goodly-packed pile when worked through the 5 mesh canvas, and c) how quickly does locker-hooking use it up.  Do I actually have enough of this stuff for a rug?

All this I learned and more beside.  The rya yarn actually is a bundle of different grists and coordinating colors of yarns wound side-by-side.  When you’re fishing to hook a loop by feel on the underside of the canvas, it’s really hard to grab all the yarns at once.  Individual strands keep slipping free from the bundle, especially the the lace-weight ones.  I often had to undo my work to retreive them.

The other problem was one I didn’t expect.  As far as I know there is only one U.S. maker of locker hooks (crochet hook with a needle eye at the end of the handle) and they only come in one size.  Mine is aluminum, and what do you know?  It is TOO BIG to pull smoothly through the unforgivingly starch-stabilized 5 mesh canvas, especially when pulling a fat load of yarn.  Struggle, struggle, struggle all the way!  Maybe the steel locker hooks from England are a little skinnier?  I hope so.

All in all it was a most uncooperative trivet.  I chastised it sternly and swore never to touch locker hook to rya yarn again.

Though it did turn out wonderfully dense and spongy:

And no, I do not like the color combination.  It’s not horrible, but after a while I realized that putting these two yarns together manages to make the least of each colorway.  The subtle loden looks drab and the blue looks harsh.  Separately they are lovely.  If I use them (and it won’t be for anything locker hooked!), I’ll pair them with solids to play them up.  Those old large, multi-stranded, un-cut skeins of Paternayan would be about the best match for texture.  At the moment however I have no immediate rugmaking plans and refuse to trawl eBay or Etsy for antique yarn.  That way madness lies.

A Heaping Pile o’

December 20, 2011

-yarn.  Yes, I am throwing away a skein of 100% wool yarn.  Hard to say what kind.  It came from an animal, I know that much.  You can tell that much just by looking at it.

And now you will be asking how it is I retained such a fine thing to throw away for so long, thrower-awayer that I am!  (No, no.  Don’t try to stop me.)  Two reasons.  First, it is 500% harder for me to get rid of something entrusted to me in a touching faith that I will love it and use it than something I got myself.  Second, I really, really wanted to make it into a doily.  And give it to someone.  Perhaps just leave it someplace unobtrusive in their house to find later–a little Christmas surprise from the angels.

This isn’t the only yarn I am throwing away, but it is the best.  And that’s really saying something, since it came in one of those “I found this bag of yarn at a yard sale and I know you like yarn so here you go” bags of yarn.  About half the yarns in the bag were exuberantly textured hand-spuns stiff with lanolin and unidentifiable particles which may once have been alive.  The rest were less-valuable machine spun yarns that only appear spun by monkeys.  It’s hard to guess what their original owner may have had in mind, but I’m pretty certain they are leftovers from that part of 1970’s when people were making woven-and-macrame wall hangings on hoops, because you know there is simply no conversation-starter like poop on a hoop.

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?

My eenie greenie warp (You’re a hoot, Jane!) was intented to help me make some decisions about a project I planned back in late spring: cottolin-warp baby blankets in a Summer and Winter adaptation of the draft “Four Locked Hearts of America” from A Handweaver’s Source Book.  The Source Book is a fantastic volume of old coverlet patterns edited by Marguerite Porter Davison, presented as profile drafts.

Then I developed a back problem which seemed to be related to treadling.  The blanket project stayed on hold while I wove scarves on my rigid heddle loom.  Finally, I coaxed myself back to the Bergman with the argument that the real purpose of the eenie greenie sample warp was to see if my back problem was definitely related to treadling.  If I moved the tabby treadles to the other leg (treadles 7 and 8, the easiest), set myself up carefully, took lots of stretching breaks, and limited how much I wove in a day, would my back flare up again?

The answer was yes.  Two weeks and a chiropractic appointment after cutting Eenie Greenie of the loom, My SI joint is still giving me threatening jabs.  So that was informative.  Also sort of freeing.  I know what to expect, and I know it’s not because I’m doing anything wrong.  (Which makes sense since I’ve used the same set-up since I started weaving and had no problems until now.)   It turns out I’m just the middle-man in a rocky love affair.  “No hard feelings, I hope, Back.”  “That’s okay, Loom.  Stay beautiful!”  

greeniesample1

greeniesample2

This was my first time working from a profile draft, and my first time weaving summer and winter.  Leigh’s and Cally’s posts on summer and winter are wonderfully clear and to-the-point.  I reread them several times: I don’t have weaving software, and with overshot drafts the pattern repeats are so long I wasn’t about to attempt full draw downs on paper; I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing.  In the same spirit I revisited the summer and winter sections in Mary Meigs Atwater’s Shuttlecraft Book of American Handweaving.

There are other advantages in the summer and winter weave.  It is possible to change the character of the pattern completely and without re-threading by changing a few knots of the tie-up and altering the treadling to correspond.  It is possible, too, to weave all the charming patterns of the old double-woven coverlets on a loom that is not too elaborate for amateur craftsmen.  All in all, this is one of the most delightful things known to American weaving.

Clearly a fan!  Mary Atwater’s notes on threading and tie-up were easier to follow when I combined them with the information and pictures in Leigh’s and Cally’s posts.  She makes a number of sensible remarks:

The weave is beautifully logical and is far easier to thread and weave than ordinary overshot work.

This was very true.  No threading mistakes.  Although…

A different texture results from throwing the A tabby between pairs, and it is necessary to watch carefully in order not to make a shift in the middle of a piece of work.  This has a very bad effect.

Once I had woven off the sample warp, I kept hearing the words, “This has a very bad effect,” echoing in a dry tone of voice.  The fiendish part is just how easy it is to make this mistake!  As you may guess from the difference between my first picture (face) and second picture (back), when you are weaving, it’s really hard to see that you’ve thrown the wrong tabby.  A pick of the incorrect tabby looked pretty much the same to me as a pick of the correct tabby on the face of the web.  Each of those glaring skips you see in the second picture came from throwing just one wrong tabby.

As to weft, Atwater advises,

As usually woven, four pattern-shots and four tabby-shots are thrown for each unit of the pattern.  It is therefore necessary to select warp and weft carefully so that the figures will be of good proportion–neither squatty nor too long drawn out.  The warp and pattern-weft should be of about the same grist and the tabby thread should be a great deal finer.

The one thing I don’t like about summer and winter is the muddied look it can get when the tabby weft is too visible.   For the baby bankets I knew I would want a pretty thick weft, which meant I would use the “brick” treadling as opposed to pairs (x’s or o’s) and thus avoid “long drawn out” figures.  The brick treadling tends to hide the tabby pretty well.  I wasn’t worried there.  But since I was also using the samples as a way to look ahead to some summer and winter towels treadled in pairs, I was eager to see if Atwater’s ratios would be the key to sharpening contrast.

I found that the weft weights and their light/dark values made such a big difference to the overall strength and crispness of the pattern, I ended up trying all kinds of combinations.  A medium-value tabby seems to do really interesting things (medium between the warp and the pattern weft).  My favorite combination for towels was a tabby of very old light bottle green Lily perle cotton (1930’s or 40’s–they call it #20, but it is finer than a 20/2) which had about 2/3 the “grist” of the 22/2 cottolin; with a 16/2 blue Bockens line linen for pattern weft.  It’s the fourth from the top.

Most of the other samples were a little loose at 15 epi, but this one was good–light and flexible.  My favorite baby blanket pairing was also good at 15 epi: cottolin tabby with a 8-ply Finnish 50% cotton, 50% linen knitting yarn for the pattern weft.  Before washing it has somewhat the texture of a soft string.  After a hot water machine wash it makes marvelous cloth!  I’m not likely to find any more of that particular yarn on ebay, but I’ve seen similar stuff in a knitting shop, and I do have enough for one blanket.  In the picture, it’s the pale strip in the middle of the green samples at the bottom.

The darker green pattern weft there is cottolin, doubled and single, combined with various tabbies.  Using a brick treadling (o’s deflect the doubled threads and make the pattern too spotty), the doubled cottolin could also make nice towels with a cotton or linen tabby weft somewhat finer than the warp–this is what you’re seeing directly above the pale baby-blanket strip.  I’d set them at 16-18 epi.

Some other things I learned:

The border I planned needs one more unit and a couple of extra repeats to look right.

5/2 mercerized cotton (the aqua, from Goodwill), ick!  Pebbly and coarse and distracting in this context.  Not a useful cloth.

With a fine cotton tabby, plain old Lily Sugar and Cream knitting yarn makes a surprisingly nice fabric, though I’m not sure how it would hold up to the repeated hot-water washings a baby blanket wants.  This combination would also be a nice weight for place mats if it wears well enough.  (Top in photo.)

Fluffy Borgs 2/2 cotton (intense violet second from top) is not a good choice for a summer and winter, at least not with the cottolin.  It is very soft, but the linty halo worsens summer and winter’s tendency to look muddy.

The dark green sample (third from the top) is Poppana, a bias-cut cotton tape that fuzzes up like chenille when you wash it.  This stuff fascinates me.  I had visions of little summer and winter Poppana bath mats when I bought it last spring, but as I feared, I can’t really use a poppana shuttle with the Bergman.  A) I could barely squeeze it between the top and bottom of the shed and B) I had to weave with my fell WAY further from the beater than works well on my loom.  I could feel the beater bearing down on it from from the top, instead of hitting it squarely.  This might not have mattered with a different weft, but I really needed to be able to hammer at that Poppana to pack it in, and I couldn’t!  Poppana comes in disks, making it easy to handle; it would be a waste to wind it from the disks onto a rag shuttle or quills.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that.  Any thoughts?

I suppose the Poppana question is moot if weaving on my Bergman is going to keep hurting my back.  I found a forum where someone who had owned many looms remarked that her Bergman loom was much heavier to treadle than other countermarches.  This doesn’t surprise me: the stubby lamms, short castle, front-hinged treadles, and all that nice, dense Douglas fir are the culprits; it’s designed for sturdiness and precision rather than mechanical efficiency.

The eenie greenie warp confirms my treadling fears, and what do I do?  I immediately wind an 8-yard rayon warp for pillow tops and a couple of stoles in “Four Locked Hearts.”  It’s pre-sleyed and ready to beam on now.  Apparently I am in denial.

Three Sisters

December 13, 2008

Here are the rigid heddle scarves I have been working on over the past few months while I give my treadles a rest.  They are made (mostly) from the odds and ends of  knitting wool in my departed Great Granny’s stash.  It was interesting to work with so many strictures: limited quantities of yarn (well, that’s normal; I’m an eeker-outer), two shafts, only one possible sett, peculiar colors.

You may remember my mission.  These scarves are for my mom and my aunts, so the fact that the yarn was my Great Granny’s is pretty much the whole point.  Posthumous granny-gifts.

 

Auntie Perfectionist, the Master Gardener

perfectionistscarf

My granny thought this yarn had some wool in it.  I’m not so sure after a burn test.  However, Auntie Perfectionist isn’t particularly attached to natural fibers and I know she likes the colors.  I think the yarn was probably left over from something Great Granny knitted for her.  Taking into consideration the fact that Auntie P doesn’t like to wear anything around her neck, a skinny wear-loose-under-the-lapel-of-her-coat scarf seemed like a plan.  The weft is a non-shrinking green sock wool.

perfectionistscarf2

To prepare the warp I pulled each individual warp yarn out of the skein and cut it off after one complete color cycle.  This makes the ikat-like striping effect.

 

Auntie Aesthete, the graphic designer

rustcheckscarf1

You know how you can pick out a Frenchwoman or a stylish Japanese just from the not-from-around-here aura of their clothes?  Auntie Aesthete looks like that, and she dresses from yard sales and consignment stores.  She has An Eye.  All kinds of interesting mustards and rusts look fabulous on her.  She wears colors I would enjoy wearing if they didn’t make me look like a radish.

rustcheckscarf2

So, it was fun working with the rust and blue, but the check pattern was extremely fiddly to weave without a floating selvedge.  I twined the shuttles and carried the cream and rust threads along the edge, but I didn’t think it would look right to have the blue traveling too, so I cut it off after each blue stripe.  Not an ideal project for a rigid heddle loom without blocks.  The colors are clearer in person.

 

Mom, the ingenue

ingenuescarf1

My photo does not convey the violent color scheme of this 1950’s self-striping wool.  There was a lot of it, so I think it was even too loud for Great Granny!

I don’t have a handle on my mom’s taste except that it is inclusive.  I remember trying to explain to her as a kid “what was wrong” with things like: a giant impressionistic foral print in khaki, banana yellow, black, kelly green and lipstick red; electric op-art Madras plaids; chinz slipcover lookalikes–in fact most any of the splotchy fabrics she brought home from the 99 cent table at Hancocks.  There was a conversation that went something like, “But don’t you like flowers?”  “I like flowers, just not if they’re too big.”  “This is too big?” “Yes, the blossoms have to be smaller than a quarter.”  Mom recently said that she is glad we are finally on the verge of getting back to the pretty colors and “nice comfy” oversized styles of the eighties.

I wasn’t worried about the Granny yarn being too bright for her, but I did wonder how I was going to put those disparate colors side by side without turning them to mud.

This threading works well for 9-and-a-bit dpi of my heddle:  The multicolored fat knitting yarn goes in the slots, pink baby yarn goes in holes–except when it goes in a slot to replace an end of fat yarn.  Breaking the fat yarn up with the baby yarn makes the fat yarn stripes stand out more crisply, since the ends of fat yarn always rise to the surface of the cloth at the same time.  The extra-fine springy wool weft is beaten at roughly 8 picks per inch.  This picture will probably make more sense than the explanation:

ingenuescarf2

The pale pink stripes in the warp and the interaction with the hot pink weft really transformed the gaudy old knitting wool.  The finished scarf has all the same colors as Great Granny’s favorite pantsuits: mint, fushia, reddish purple, lavender.  I can almost smell the Coty face powder.

Sparkly Nest

November 12, 2008

A few weeks ago I was admiring Suzan’s collection of spindles on her blog.  I have been wanting to try spinning with a spindle, so I asked if she had any advice about a starter spindle.  Suzan said a CD spindle is a good one for a beginner, and kindly offered to send me the rubber gasket needed to fit the CD’s to the dowel.

Today, this arrived in the mail.

spinpack1

Methinks that is a very big box for a little rubber gasket.

When I opened it up, I felt suddenly. . .

shugochara

. . . as though I were twirling through sparkly multicolored vapors . . . yes, strangely uplifted!

Transformed, even?

A complete CD spindle with instructions rested in a nest of sparkly roving–soft natural colors mixed beautifully with orchid and citron.

spinpack2

And under that, even more wonderful fluff!

spinpack3

I am an innocent when it comes to wool preparation, but I read in my Woodland Woolworks catalog that new spinners should start with a not-too-slippery longish-staple carded fiber, so I read the directions and started with the least slippery roving in the box.  It was so fun! 

Spindle spinning is anti-weaving.  Or maybe, if it is like any part of weaving, it is like throwing the shuttle.  Rhythm and alertness and consistency and accumulation. 

I already begin to get a sense that achieving consistent yarn with a drop spindle is to be done more than it is to be talked about.

spinpack4

In the mean time, good thing I know how to take my lumps!

 

Der Mann and I left town for a long weekend in Oregon.  In the car I suddenly realized that, not counting obligatory family visits, this was our first vacation in about two years.  (Maybe I shouldn’t count the two-years-ago vacation, since we were location scouting for Der Mann’s last job hunt.  Which means our last vacation was . . . ?)  Anyway, after 8 years of marriage it has finally dawned on us that we are not very good at vacations.  It’s not that we are workaholics or anything like that.  It’s just, we are never quite able to get past the knowledge that even as we are spending mucho $$ on gas, state park yurts, campsites, and hotel rooms; hauling a rice cooker and an ice chest around, we are at the very same time spending $23 a night on perfectly good lodgings with a stove, groceries, and our own bed.  Which stands vacant while we load coins into showers and stop to organize the dirty dishes in the back of our minivan.

This awareness seems to counteract the happy-go-lucky spirit of a vacation, which I’ve been told is a thing many people find relaxing.

This vacation worked out better because we stayed in a cabin on a farm.  A second-career farm couple has opened their 40 acres to visitors.  It’s nestled into a cranny between forested hills off the Alsea Valley, which is about at the halfway point when you cross the Coastal Range from the Willamette Valley to the ocean.  We ended up there because we’d been through the Alsea Valley a few years ago, and thought it was one of the most beautiful places we’d seen.  Here are pictures from a walk we took at the county park just outside the town of Alsea.  There were a lot of spawning salmon.

The owners of Leaping Lamb Farm keep 30 to 40 hair sheep, which they sell for grass-fed lamb.  In the barn there are HUGE bags of wool, left over from the wool sheep they have pretty much phased out.  Apparently they can’t get enough money for the wool to justify hauling it away.  (“Make me an offer!” S told me when she found out I weave.)  There are also all the other animals you’d expect: horses, a burro, chickens, geese, a peacock, dogs and cats.  S takes you around to do the chores if you want to, and is a friendly font of information on all subjects farmy and rural Oregon-y.  Her generosity comes of having learned everything the hard way herself, since she and her husband bought the drippy 125-year-old farm straight out of southwestern suburbia 5 years ago.

The guest cabin was a big, fully finished kit cabin decorated with Pendleton blankets and southwest-style woven rugs.  The floors were wide pine boards.  It was very nice to hang around there.  No itchy bedspreads or pictures you want to turn to the wall.  The best part was the full kitchen.  The only housekeeping stuff we had to bring was food.

I looked at the Pendleton woolen things a lot.  I’ve been on tours of both the mills (Washougal is better), but I didn’t think much about the products.  By gosh, those are some excellent blankets.  I’d like to furnish my linen closet with a few, when I have a linen closet, because I can’t see myself ever weaving anything that wide and fine or felting anything that thickly.  I had the disorienting experience of staring at a Pendleton pillow that I would have once seen as simply a pillow, and thinking, “That’s a broken twill.”  Weaving does things you.

Like, it makes you take a big side trip on the way home, even though that means you’ll face 1 1/2 hours of Portland rush hour traffic.

Meet Woodland Woolworks, a mail order company which also happens to run the ONLY real weaving supply store within a hundred-fifty miles of where I live:

(This is where I’d put a picture of their warehouse, if I hadn’t been rushing inside as soon as we got there, and Der Mann hadn’t been peeling out on the gravel on our way to beat some of the traffic as we left at closing time.)

You’d think there’d be a weaving store in Portland, but nope.  Woodland Woolworks is tucked away by some grain elevators in the middle of a small town called Carlton.  Past Hillsboro, sort of by Newberg.  I was there for the warping reels.  Since they carry almost every kind, I was hoping they would have some on display.  I wanted to get a sense of which were well or poorly constructed, weight, finish, collapability etc.

Unfortunately Woodland Woolworks doesn’t keep any reels on hand, just orders them as needed.  I wasn’t too disappointed because I was soon in a yarn and book frenzy.  The yarn store where we used to live carried a few odds and ends of weaving and spinning stuff, but there is a world of difference between that, and a place with cones lined up on all the walls, and shelves with most of the weaving books I’ve heard of.

The weaving room is one of three retail areas.  You have to walk through their packing room and office to get from one area to another.  Downstairs were knitting yarn, roving, and spindles.  Upstairs there were spinning wheels and accessories as well as weaving stuff.  And out on the enclosed loading dock?  Discounted knitting yarn and second-hand supplies of all sorts!

I was circumspect.  Now I kind of regret it.  If only I’d known about this place when I was looking for a rigid heddle loom or an 8-dent reed!  Der Mann went downtown for coffee while I raced from room to room, figuring out what was where so I could budget my dwindling 2 hours.

I started out with the books.  It is soooo much easier to tell if you want a weaving book or not when you can leaf through it.  You can tell a lot just by the sorts of pictures and drafts a book has, how many, and the amount (and tone) of the text.  I wrote down the titles of the books I’d like to own so I can order them when I’m ready to part with the cash.

That meant yarn came last.  I’d have bought more if I weren’t so rushed.  Woodland Woolworks’ unmercerized 8/2 cotton seemed surprisingly firm and smooth.  8/2 is chunkier than I prefer for kitchen linens, but I think I’ll really like this stuff when it’s woven up.  I had decided the best strategy was to buy a color I wouldn’t have known I liked unless I’d met it in person.  You can’t tell from the picture, but never did a color yell “1967” so loudly (in a good way) as this one.  It’s called “Old Gold,” which is completely inaccurate.  I would call it, “Willow-Bud Green on Acid, As Seen Through Rose-Colored Glasses.”  Or maybe just “Dusty Chartreuse.”

Another cone struck my fancy because it is exactly the color of unbleached linen.  There are a lot of hideous beiges.  You can never tell what you’re going to get with beige.  I think I’ll make some mock two-tone linen towels.

I also bought some lovely line linen.  They have very little Bockens in stock, just two small cubbies, but they did have a blue 16/2 I really liked.

The upshot is, I’ll have to go back.  There were a ton of different cellulose fibers, chinese silk (loved the silk noil, particularly!), and Jaegerspun.  Zephyr is on my wish list, and since it’s pricey I’d much rather not order it blind.  Also, a HUGE selection of UKI mercerized, if I ever go that direction.

But perhaps the best part of my visit was getting to weave on a Glimåkra countermarche.  I have never seen one of these looms outside of pictures. Woodland Woolworks has a 36″ Ideal (which is Glimåkra’s “compact” loom) set up for towels and . . . my goodness.  It was like meeting a movie star on the beach in their sweat pants holding a plastic bag of dog poo.  I tend to sigh over the big Scandinavian looms, especially when my own gives me trouble.  “Ooh, back-hinged treadles.  Ooh, so tall.  Ooh, hanging beater, I faint with longing at the thought of your featherlight touch.”

And yet something was very wrong with this loom!  It opened wonderfully big sheds compared to my Bergman, but I started wondering if they had got the wrong treadle assembly on it, because I got absolutely NO good from those sheds; they were trapped behind the beater!  That is to say, when I pushed the hanging beater back–even when it was hanging from the forward-most notch–it hit the shafts immediately.  There was almost no space between the fell and the beater.  I could barely squeeze the little Schacht shuttle through.  I pushed back he jack box, which slides freely on top of the castle, but that didn’t help because the treadles still pulled the bottoms of the shafts way forward.  Basically, adjusting the position of the jack box just put the shafts on a slant.  I fiddled with where the fell line was, but you need it within about 2″ of the center point of the beater’s arc, or the reed doesn’t hit it squarely.

I couldn’t see any way to adjust this Glimåkra that would give more room for the shuttle.  True, I only spent about 20 minutes with it, but I had been expecting better things.  I was also kind of surprised at the coarse grain and coarse final sanding of the wood.  Without its stage makeup, the Ideal just looked big and rough.

I expect there is a lot difference between the weaving experience on the Glimåkra Ideal, which is designed for compactness, and the Standard.  And of course there is a lot of difference between fiddling with a loom in a weaving store and owning one.  Still, I was able to leave with the pleasant feeling that, “Hey, I have a pretty good loom!  Warts and all, I wouldn’t trade it for a big lunk like that.”  That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like a bigger, better Scandinavian countermarche than the Ideal in addition to the Bergman some far-off day, but for a compact countermarche I doubt I could have done better.  My loom is almost as deep as the Ideal, for all it is so much smaller.

Mary's Peak, highest point in the Coastal Range

Mary's Peak, highest point in the Coastal Range

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!

Yarn Samples and a Book

August 16, 2008

A while ago I made a little resolution that I will always plan and wind the warp for my next project while my current project is still on the loom.  Once my warp is wound, it feels like the job of warping is half done–an illusion, I know.  I play a lot of little tricks like that on myself.  It’s surprising I haven’t gotten wise to them!

I may not be half done when I’ve wound the warp, but with the reeling and beaming problems I’ve had in the past, those are the parts of warping that intimidate me.  Like an omelet: that moment when you decide it’s time to turn it over or it will burn, and it all comes apart if you haven’t got the heat and the pan and the filling right (I tend to overfill).  Once you’ve turned it over, successfully or unsuccessfully, setting the table and serving it up is easy.  So far I actually like threading and sleying.  They take longer but there’s no stress involved.  Winding and beaming are easier to face if I don’t have to face them both at the same time.

That said, I only just finished the second scarf on my navy merino scarf warp, but I have been spending a lot of time planning my next project.  First a sample warp, for which I have the thread, but then I get to buy some!

So, I finally placed an order to Vävstuga, something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

There is something so neat and potential-filled about sample cards.  When I took them out of the package, these gave me the same feeling as the oil pastel sticks lined up in a box of Cray-Pas when I was a kid.  Unfortunately, when I tried to start using them to compare colors, I realized that they were not very functional.  In tight rows you can’t use the samples as swatches.  Not only to the colors confuse each other through juxtaposition, 3 square centimeters simply isn’t enough color for my eyes to make sense of.  They are okay for matching.  If I can find a piece of clothing or a book jacket with the color that interests me, I can hold it up to the cards and find the nearest color; but since the match isn’t exact, I can’t dependably take that piece of clothing and hold it against another thread sample to see if it goes.

I’m not quite at the point of cutting the cards into strips and making a cardboard window to separate the colors.

Vävstuga’s regular Bockens sample book had been backordered a long time with no guarantee as to when more would arrive, which is why I bought the separate sample cards.  Does anyone know if the proper Bockens sample book gives you more yarn in a more useful configuration?

The other thing in my package:

I had been thinking of buying The Praktisk Vävbok for a long time.  Seeing it advertised over and over again in my 80’s copies of Väv must have pushed me over.  It is a nicely made book, a clean facsimile (all in Swedish) of one published in 1899.  I enjoy the homey assumption that weavers want to use their cloth for everyday home sewing.  The drafts are named to purpose like “Children’s Clothing,” or “Upholstery,” or “English Hand-towel Material.”  Another good thing about the book is that most of the patterns are for 8 shafts, probably because it is an old book which assumes that you are using a counterbalance–there are smaller sections for fewer shafts, but none for more than 8.  This focus is uncommon in Scandinavian weaving books.  Usually more space is given over to either 4-shaft patterns or 10-and-upwards.

Which brings me to my problem.  Most of the patterns are traditional 8-shaft plain and fancy twills.  I already have the same or similar patterns scattered through my other Scandinavian weaving books or in Edward Worst.  They are are all very Swedish looking–small all-over patterns familiar from old table linens.  It’s nice seeing them in one place, laid out compactly with a spot black-and-white photograph of the cloth right next to the draft, but for a reference book I would really want something more exhaustive with better photos, like Helene Bress’ The Weaving Book, which I have been missing ever since I left it behind at the public library where we used to live (and which I probably shouldn’t even mention here, for fear of driving the price up even further!).

Still, I like the fact that The Praktisk Vävbook features the 8-shaft versions of these twills.  It’s not too big, pleasant to hold, and it has the further advantage of not making my nose stuff up and my my throat and eyes itch.  I got most of my old Scandinavian weaving books as a lot on ebay, from a weaver’s estate.  They had been sitting in a shed or something for a long time and grown musty.  Which is bad enough.  But the real problem was that the over-zealous ebay dealer though it would be a good idea to mask the mustiness by putting them in a sealed container with a chemical air freshener for several days (I know this because I asked her).  I aired them in the sun repeatedly, but the reek is tenacious.

And now a little cord update:  I looked into the smaller size of Texsolv tie-up cord Susan told me about after the Texsolv post, but according to the nice people at Woolhouse Tools, the smaller cord is a really, really small gauge, and not strong enough for lamm or treadle tie-up.  The buttonholes have the same 12 mm spacing as the regular cord, which won’t help with fine adjustments.  The Woolhouse people suggested I loop the cord back through itself to adjust in smaller increments.  I know what they’re talking about, but I don’t think it can help with a Bergman loom because of the way the cords go to cup hooks rather than through holes in the lamms.  I will fiddle with the cords and the pegs some more when I do my next tie-up.  There may be some configuration of Texsolv and peg I haven’t thought of.

This would be a lot easier with a trained monkey.  Smaller fingers.  Fits under the loom.